“It is correct that the government supports the business of farming in the transition to greater sustainability.”
“CAP will do it, but our national budget has to be used to do it, and there are various levels that one needs to look at in this.”
That is according to Marie Donnelly, chairperson of the Climate Change Advisory Council, who featured in the latest segment of Teagasc’s Signpost Series, which focused on the challenges and opportunities of the Green Transition.
Presented by Pat Murphy, head of environment KT, Donnelly told him that “Irish agriculture is arguably the most sustainable farming mechanism we have. It is already entrenched and established in the country”.
She outlined that Irish agriculture is “in a leadership position, and an opportunity does exist for us to take a run with this”.
“We are different, but we are better. Let us show the world we are better and demonstrate how sustainability really works in a farming sense.”
She said that we will need food in 2030, 2050 and beyond and will continue to consume, for example, animal proteins over that period.
But our challenge is to ensure that we are able to produce top-quality food in a sustainable way and to continue to present Ireland on the international stage as the most sustainable option, she told Murphy.
“The reason why I put emphasis on the international stage is, of course, because we export so much of our food.”
“We have a very good reputation. It is absolutely essential that we maintain that reputation and that we do not allow others to do damage to it.”
“If people can point to the fact that we are not reducing our emissions in the country or in agriculture, that is a weak point. We cannot afford to have a weak point like that in our international markets.”
The CCAC’s chair’s second message centred around Ireland producing the best and, therefore, positioning the island as “the best and the premium”.
She continued: “We should look for the prices and get the prices that we need for that.”
“Certainly, from an international perspective where we export so much of our product, the direction of travel is absolutely clear.”
“We need sustainability; we need to demonstrate that and get the reward for that in our markets.”
“Closer to home, I think we can do more, to be perfectly honest. For example, as an illustration, and this could be a voluntary agreement, perhaps, but in Denmark, supermarkets have to carry a minimum share of organic products.”
“Maybe we should be looking at things like should Ireland have a minimum share of organics? Should we have a share of locally produced products on shelves in our supermarkets?”
She suggested that it does not have to be by means of legislation, but it could be a voluntary proposal by supermarkets.
She added that, ultimately, that is the funnel where the consumer meets what the farmer produces.
The CCAC chair continued: “I think we do need to think about how farmers are rewarded in the marketplace for the products that they produce and how the consumers can best do that.”
“Of course, there is a third area that we need to look at; it is a business. Some of these costs, these changes, are going to be costly.”
“Out of it all, I would say yes, is there a future, without any doubt. You go into your job when you are 18, 20 or 21 years of age, and you say to yourself, is this business going to be around forever?”
“No one knows, but I can be sure that farming and the production of food will still be there fifty years from now,” she concluded.