The decision by the Environmental Pillar to walk from the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy Committee, while not entirely surprising, must be disappointing for environmentalists and farmers alike. Both parties agree that change is afoot when it comes to balancing the production of food with the replenishing of the environment.
But the continuing adversarial narrative is concerning and frustrating for everybody else watching on.
The narrative remains bitterly divided
En route to finally agreeing to the Northern Ireland Peace Process, we remember walk outs and breakdowns in talks. But it was all part of the choreography to finally knocking heads together and working as one for mutual benefit.
But when it comes to finding common ground between environmentalists and farmers, there is no sign of a coming together for the betterment of all.
The narrative remains bitterly divided. From my interaction with farmers, they seem ready to step up to the plate as part of a just transition. But reading through the press releases from the various environmental NGOs following their “reluctant withdrawal” from Strategy 2030, there is no costing or stress testing of the unintended consequences of Irish food production meeting their proposals.
It jars somewhat to compartmentalise people in this instance because who doesn’t support a clean environment and who doesn’t support the people who produce food? As the clock ticks to inevitable change in the way food is produced, the time for posturing, throwing brickbats and sneering at one another must stop if real grown up progress is to be made.
What is badly needed and of greater importance is to replace ideology with reality. Where is the independent economic and social impact assessment on a pathway to the future which addresses all aspects of producing food in an environmental and social and economically sustainable way? Broadly finger wagging at farmers who are working within EU guidelines, that they must do this and that to save the planet without engagement in good faith serves to infuriate rather than encourage.
It is simply perplexing that we are still at the “reduce the national” herd stage of this important process of working on change for the better. This is one example of not presenting quantifiable research in the various solutions being proposed to reduce emissions. Casually throwing around phrases like “industrial farming” in the context of Irish cow herds does nothing except belittle farmers and display a lack of fundamental understanding of Irish farm structures.
How can any farmer engage when faced with such unviable and unrealistic suggestions?
Again, what is the quantifiable definition of “industrial farming” just so Irish farmers know where they are in the ballpark? As for the “grow more crops and vegetables” solution to enticing a beef farmer on marginal land to change enterprise, how can any farmer engage when faced with such unviable and unrealistic suggestions?
It is imperative that environmental advocacy is central to that process
OK, that example may be a bit OTT, but it is merely to underline the point that the agri/enviro conundrum is going nowhere unless there is a willingness by the environmental pillar to appreciate that compromise is an essential ingredient to any successful collaboration. Instead of populist sound-bites, a sensible roadmap to reducing agri-emissions while recognising the unique role of farmers and agriculture in the Irish economy is paramount. And it is imperative that environmental advocacy is central to that process.
Italy has lost their last 30 matches in the Six Nations, winning just 12 out of 108 since 2000. Is it time to put them out of their misery?