Farmers and environmentalists have sadly an unhealthy mutual disdain for each other. There’s no other way of putting it.
There was a time when people disliked farmers for a variety of reasons, even before we were aware of the existential threat of climate change.
Food production – wherever it is on Earth – produces damaging emissions. The fact that it is such a large indigenous industry means its 33% contribution to Ireland’s emissions stands out like a sore thumb when compared to other industries and countries.
People may say they’ve nothing against individual farmers in lambasting livestock production
As a result, Irish farmers are literally condemned for what they do for a living. People may say they’ve nothing against individual farmers in lambasting livestock production. But the use of terms such as “industrial farming” and “intensive agriculture” in an Irish context can only be interpreted by individual farmers as deliberately provocative.
The Central Statistics Office stats on average farm size in Ireland would seem to describe farms that are completely opposite to what those terms were invented for. So why use them?
That is not to say that agricultural production globally couldn’t have, and shouldn’t have, set about cleaning up its act long before it was dragged into doing so. In Ireland, the focus has been on increasing output and multiplying the value of exports over the past 20 years, even when alarm bells were beginning to ring.
[...] there isn’t a farming conference now that isn’t dominated by the climate crises
This has come at the expense of the environment. Any recent Environmental Protection Agency report underlines this in terms of the damaging impact of increased agricultural activity on water quality in predominantly farming areas.
As such, there isn’t a farming conference now that isn’t dominated by the climate crises and what policy changes food production is going to experience in order to protect the environment. Even for the few farmer sceptics or those greedy enough not to care, it’s now out of their hands as a plethora of national and European policies and carrots and sticks are going to change the way of livestock farming over the next decade.
EU policy will, within reason, determine the future direction of food production one hopes that is good for farmers and the environment
Already inside the farmgate, measures to be compliant to meet these targets are in play. No farmer can afford to fall foul of a subsidy penalty so they are working night and day in preparation. EU policy will, within reason, determine the future direction of food production one hopes that is good for farmers and the environment.
Farm groups will naturally hang in for all they can squeeze for their members which comes across as foot dragging. Isn’t that the role of a trade union? It’s why trade unions of which we are not members annoy the rest of us.
Anyway, the farm lobby no longer seem to carry the sway they once did if you study the EU Green Deal.
Nevertheless, the public discourse in Ireland when it comes to debating the important role farmers will play in meeting climate targets remains binary and jarring.
Across many platforms, the story of Irish farming is now told through a prism of negativity
For example: “Cut the national herd” is a broad-brush clickbait wheeze as infuriating for environmentalists as it is for farmers. And in media discussions, unlike in health, housing or economics, it’s always a lone farmer or rural TD wheeled out to bat. Why never the university experts and professors to explain the complexities as is the case in other areas of the economy?
Across many platforms, the story of Irish farming is now told through a prism of negativity where individual farmers feel the onus is on them to deny they are industrial, intensive and cruel polluters before they have a chance to explain what they are doing to protect the land they farm.
How Ireland has changed over the past 50 years could be chronicled via Sunday night drama during that time in the following order: The Riordans, Glenroe, Bachelors Walk, The Clinic, Love/Hate, Kin.