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Opinion: A huge opportunity for farmers finding it harder to make ends meet

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus stresses the urgent need to develop Ireland’s organics sector.

Having recently visited Beechlawn Organic Farm in Ballinasloe and Siolta Chroi in Co. Monaghan, I have witnessed first-hand how well our farmers can embrace an organic model.

Farmers are leading the way whilst our government sleeps.

Through the Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity strategies, published in May 2020, the Commission has committed to reaching at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030 and a significant increase in organic aquaculture, both to improve the sustainability of the food system and to revert biodiversity loss.

However, organic surfaces still represent only 8% of the total utilised agricultural area in the EU. It varies widely between EU countries.

Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta have made the least progress in this area, sitting at less than 3%.

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Countries like Sweden, Estonia and Austria have reached over 20%.

Organics sector

The action plan must work as a lever to stimulate both the supply and the demand side.

This can be done in several ways, such as new certification schemes and more straightforward production rules.

As flagged by my party colleague, TD Matt Carthy, it is likely that by the time the rest of Europe is hitting 15%, around 2025, Ireland only plans to hit 7.5%, leaving it with an almost impossible uphill battle to reach the Commission’s 2030 target.

It’s exasperating. Minister McConalogue is asleep at the wheel on this issue.

It is a huge opportunity for small and medium family farmers, who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.

The Government must not squander it. Peoples’ livelihoods depend on it.

Change production methods

Irish farmers should take rising input costs as the impetus to change production methods to a more sustainable model.

That is the belief of Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus, who spoke following a visit to Siolta Chroi organic farm near Carrickmacross.

He believes that high input prices make a case for sustainable solutions.

On the energy side, he believes microgeneration on farms needs finalisation.

He said farms could be producing their own energy and selling surpluses back to the grid.

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