Ireland’s next agri-food strategy, Food Vision 2030, aims to increase the value of agri-food exports by €7bn to €21bn by 2030, through “sustainable steady value growth”.

Aside from giving it its official title, the strategy seems to have changed little since the draft of the document appeared in April.

The strategy expects farmers to deliver a lot, but it has no specific plan to deliver for farmers.

Asking Irish farmers to make drastic changes on-farm in the hope that consumers will begin to pay more for sustainable food is not a good business plan.

It places a great deal of reliance on farmers making up lost income from environmental schemes and carbon farming.

However, there is no impact assessment or idea of what these payments will be, and indeed, if there will be payment. For example, not all farms will build carbon, and therefore, will not be paid for carbon build up.

There are specific targets for farmers, however there are no specific targets for farm incomes. Instead, it envisages “an upward trend in family farm income towards 2030.”

Some of the targets set out in Food Vision 2030 are:

  • 10% reduction in biogenic methane by 2030 from 2018 levels. To be adjusted in line with climate bill targets.
  • 50% reduction in nitrous oxide emissions from fertiliser by 2030.
  • 50% reduction in nutrient losses from agriculture to water.
  • Vision to prioritise 10% of farmed area for biodiversity across all farms.
  • Reduction in ammonia emissions to 5% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Increase afforestation to 8,000ha/year and double the sustainable production of biomass from forests to 2m tonnes by 2035.
  • Target of 7.5% of utilisable agricultural area to be farmed organically by 2030.
  • There are also questions to be answered on certain topics. For example, the strategy aims to retain or increase the area under tillage crops, while aiming to reduce pesticide use by 50%.

    It states that “precision breeding techniques, if legislation permits” will be required to minimise impact on the sector.

    If the current EU law is upheld on these new breeding techniques, the impact on this sector will be significant.

    Carbon farming

    Food Vision 2030 commits to rolling out a pilot scheme for on-farm carbon trading and describes carbon-farming as a potential new source of income for farmers.

    Potential is the key word here. There is huge potential to make money from carbon storage, but not all farms will increase carbon storage.

    For example, reseeding to increase clover levels and meet nitrogen reduction targets can release carbon that has been stored previously.

    Positively, the strategy aims to have “a new regulatory framework for certifying carbon removals.” This will underpin a payment to farmers and it notes that aside from public funding, funding from the private sector will also be required. The document also outlines the need for evidence-based measurement, reporting and verification to understand the carbon sequestration potential of Irish soils.

    The strategy aims to set up a feasibility study and a working group on developing a carbon trading market that also investigates the potential to use private sector funding for carbon farming schemes.