There is growing anger among NI farmers about climate change legislation which is currently making its way through Stormont.
According to independent analysis by consultancy firm KPMG, a proposed target for NI to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 could require an 86% reduction in cattle and sheep numbers on local farms.
The target is contained within a private member’s bill which was brought forward by Green Party MLA Clare Bailey and is currently supported by all the main political parties at Stormont, except the DUP.
Frustration grew among local farmers last week after it emerged that the Brazilian meat processing sector is aiming to add 24 million cattle to the country’s national herd over the next 10 years.
Some local farmers have suggested that protests should be held to make politicians at Stormont come to a sensible way forward.
“We certainly would not rule that out at this stage,” said Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president David Brown.
“If Brazil is going to fill up the slack and we are going to effectively export our food production somewhere else, farmers are rightly asking ‘what are our politicians at?’” he told the Irish Farmers Journal.
A separate climate change bill, which aims to cut emissions by at least 82% by 2050, has been put forward at Stormont by DAERA Minister Edwin Poots.
The targets in the DAERA bill are based on recommendations from the Climate Change Committee, an expert group which advises the UK government on climate policy.
James Lowe, chair of the NI Agricultural Producers’ Association, is pressing for local politicians to come to a consensus and set targets which will not lead to agricultural emissions being moved overseas.
“It doesn’t make sense what the Green Party and other parties are putting forward. You have the private member’s bill in one hand, and then the other hand the Conservative government, who are keen to do trade deals with other countries around the world,” he said.
“Food production is ultimately number one for farmers, but we still have to be involved in getting our carbon footprint on a downward trajectory,” Lowe added.