The herd reduction scenarios proposed in Monday’s Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) carbon budgets were “crude”, according to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Heydon.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast on Tuesday, he said farmers are very much part of the solution and not the problem.

“If the only narrative that farmers ever hear is that they are the problem, you’ll very quickly lose the dressing room.

“There is a narrative around food production and the herd that what farmers do is bad and what cows do is bad.”

Work to date

Minister Heydon said that what farmers do is produce sustainable food off our pasture-based system.

“While every sector has to play its part, there is a list of alternative actions that we [farmers] are taking and have started undertaking already in the area of agriculture like improving our national herd genetics, the better use of fertilisers and improving soil fertility. These are alternatives to that very crude herd reduction.

“We accept that reducing emissions from our herd, farming enterprises and agriculture has to play its part like all sectors of society but the actions that we have identified and implemented already are all backed by science.”

Referencing the “45 to 50 million people” Ireland feeds internationally, the minister highlighted the need for Ireland to work together with other food producing nations in reducing overall global carbon emissions through sharing research and innovation.

Stable herd

Minister Heydon mirrored comments made in recent weeks by his ministerial colleagues that Ireland can reach its agricultural carbon emission reduction targets with a stable herd.

“My Department’s approach has been based on a roadmap that we published, Ag Climatise. This is based on a stable herd and we believe that with present and future science, we can reduce our emissions further with a stable herd.

“Work is already under way on feed additives that will reduce the methane output from animals. We haven’t even looked yet at, and [the CCAC] modelling doesn’t take account of, the role methane vaccines will have into the future,” he said.

Minister Heydon’s comments come off the back of Ireland’s first carbon budget proposals, launched by the Climate Change Advisory Council on Monday.

Full analysis of the CCAC modelling will be available in this week’s Irish Farmers Journal.