The Climate Action Bill will be completely futile if there is not active engagement with the farming community.
That is according to ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher, who spoke following a meeting with An Taoiseach, Michéal Martin, and other senior government ministers earlier this week.
He said farmers are willing to do more, but they need more support if this is to be realised.
“We cannot expect Irish farmers to save the planet and bankrupt themselves.”
“We need more funding, in addition to CAP funding, to help improve biodiversity, decrease emissions, and improve carbon sinks. Farmers will plant more hedges and keep more habitats, but it cannot happen if the farm is not viable.”
“ICSA believes the relentless shaming and blaming of Irish farming for everything that is wrong in the world must be challenged at every opportunity. It is high time for Irish farming to be treated fairly in the climate debate.”
Improve and adapt farming systems
He also argued that more consideration needs to be given to Ireland’s national interests.
“Germany will not sacrifice its car industry or close down its coal industry, and we should – likewise – stand up for our most important indigenous sector.”
“It is all very well having five-year targets as proposed in the Climate Bill. There is no point in pretending to care about climate change if we implement a policy of carbon leakage. It makes no sense to outsource our livestock farming systems to Brazil or Australia.”
Kelleher, however, emphasised that farmers are willing to their fair share.
“Farmers have and continue to improve and adapt their systems of farming. This is something that needs to be recognised and encouraged.”
“But we also need all government policies to align with this overall goal.”
Farm-based renewable energies
He added that there has been talk but no decisions for too long and no support for farm-based renewable energies in terms of biogas, solar and biofuels.
The farm group wants to see government decisions to enable Ireland to hit 20% renewable gas by 2030.
It wishes to see E10 in fuel instead of E5 and desires it to be economically viable for cattle sheds to have solar panels supplying the grid.
“ICSA is asking that we all carefully consider and protect what is in our vital national interest. We must not allow the cynical and massively funded anti-livestock narrative to drown out all reasonable debate.”
The ICSA president also made a strong case that cattle, sheep, and tillage farmers, in particular, needed more support under the CAP to help deliver national and EU objectives.
“ICSA is very concerned that the impact of convergence cuts will be felt most severely by cattle and sheep farmers. These are the sectors that are most dependent on CAP payments.”
Twenty years ago, CAP payments were “very much targeted” at suckler, beef, sheep, and tillage farmers. However, over the years, he stressed that these sectors have seen their payments cut repeatedly. “This must be faced up to now in the current CAP reform,” Kelleher concluded.