Former Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said it is “really disappointing” that the Environmental Pillar has withdrawn from talks about the next agri-food strategy.

The Environmental Pillar, which represents 32 environmental NGOs, said on Thursday that it cannot support the draft agri-food 2030 strategy as it does not set targets or milestones to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“I don’t think the Department of Agriculture can coerce the environmental pillar back into the talks about the successor to Food Wise 2025,” Creed told a young Fine Gael webinar on agriculture and the environment on Thursday evening.

“Certainly when convening the group this time, under the chair of Tom Arnold who has quite strong global credentials in the environmental space not just national credentials, we deliberately made an effort to include the environmental pillar who hadn’t been part of the consultative group in terms of food wise strategies really.

Parting shot

“It is really disappointing, and you know the echo of their parting shot is tirelessly repetitive, in terms of the criticisms that they level.

“They are an important voice, we can’t escape that, but we have a story to tell and we shouldn’t be afraid to defend it.

“There are improvements we can make as well,” he said.

Carbon farming

On carbon farming, he said the imperative is that every farm holding is involved in the endeavour and that “every farm holding establishes a baseline in terms of how carbon efficient [they are], or inefficient as the case may be, so that from that point they know what the potential they have in terms of a carbon trading model”.

Creed added: “We have a lot of data to collect. We’re far from being in a position to establish that now, but I do think there is, by comparison, income to be made here for farmers who are income-challenged now in the enterprise they have chosen.

“The ideal model I would like in those areas is not to repeat the afforestation argument, where somebody opts out entirely. I would like to see farmers have a mix of enterprises, including a carbon-trading enterprise on their farm, which might be contingent on doing less of other things they have been doing,” he said.

Kicking and screaming

Creed said that agriculture has to step up to the climate change challenge and create a broader awareness that agriculture is up for the challenge.

“Let’s not be dragged kicking and screaming. Let’s run to the top of the field and let’s lead the industry and the debate and frame it to suit our purpose and I think that’s very possible,” he said.

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