The Green Party has pledged its unequivocal support for reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to reward farmers for sequestering carbon, restoring biodiversity and producing clean energy.

Launching its election 2020 manifesto in Dublin on Saturday, the party said CAP reforms should seek to help small farmers rather than large-scale agricultural enterprises.

It also wants the reforms to include a transfer of funding from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 to support results-based outcomes.

The party is in favour of convergence of CAP funding, but does not elaborate on how much.

It wants viable livelihoods for those who farm the land, it says.

The party says Irish agricultural policy should support farmers to “diversify away from an over-reliance on dairy and beef production for commodity export markets” and develop a thriving horticultural sector.

It wants “significant reforms” of the country’s agri-food policy that will involve an assessment of the remit and funding of Teagasc and Bord Bia. It also wants to keep Ireland “GMO-free at this time”.

It outlined plans including:

  • An extensification of the animal agricultural model, one which places emphasis on biodiversity, habitat creation, carbon sequestration and soil health, and animal welfare.
  • An increase the land being farmed organically to 20% by 2030 and an expansion of the Organic Farming Scheme.
  • A substantial increase in funding for sustainable horticulture and support for the development of agroforestry/silvopasture on Irish farmland.
  • Animal welfare

    The Green Party wants:

  • A ban on the live export of livestock for slaughter to non-EU countries and a phasing out of the live export of unweaned calves by exploring other market opportunities.
  • Higher welfare standards for all farmed animals and supporting CAP measures.
  • A significant increase in funding for animal welfare organisations.
  • Improved pig welfare, and that the EU Pigs Directive, which prohibits mutilations such as tail docking, be upheld. It wants to develop a high-welfare outdoor-reared pig sector.
  • A ban on all types of cages for laying hens.
  • To support a Bord Bia-funded bonus for ‘zero-movement’ beef-bred cattle which are born, raised and slaughtered from the farm of origin.
  • ‘Honest labelling’ for animal products, which would include details such as methods of rearing and production.
  • End badger culling by rolling out badger vaccination.
  • Green Party spokesperson on agriculture, Pippa Hackett.

    Food chain

    On food production, the Greens outlined plans for redirecting grant funding towards all farm-to-fork supply chain activities and measures that help farmers transition to sustainable farming practices.

    It wants a major marketing initiative to encourage consumers to buy locally grown, pesticide-free food.

    It would also support the establishment of local food processing facilities for local food producers.

    It proposed an energy efficient farming scheme, to include a farm efficiency rating overseen by the SEAI.

    Biodiversity and soils

    The Green Party wants to set up a government taskforce on farming and biodiversity. It wants to increase the amount of Irish land that is farmed according to the principles of high nature value farming.

    It wants to establish a national action plan on biodiversity in agriculture, including a focus on moving away from monoculture crops.

    It wants a national soil strategy to protect and manage soils and research funding prioritised for carbon sequestration mechanisms in farming and to examine the impacts of pesticides, slurry and fertilisers on soil health.

    Young farmers

    The Green Party wants to help young farmers accessing land and in getting access to land and introducing legislative, legal and financial mechanisms to facilitate lease agreements between farmers.

    It wants agricultural education courses to include training on biodiversity, climate and environmental protection.