The president of Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has said the notion that farming has to come to a full stop while the emission lowering programme is accelerated is neither possible nor desirable.
Pat McCormack has said that his association is convinced that it is possible to continue develop the farming sector while simultaneously cutting agri emissions.
McCormack said that the reported cuts in agri-related emissions will be “a huge challenge and one that can only be contemplated, much less achieved, with massive support and commitment from every level of Government in Ireland”.
He was adamant that the sector needed an approach to the transition that was flexible and responsive to a situation that he was certain would change dramatically as already-introduced measures fed through.
He said that a whole spectrum of measures and practices will lead to reduced emissions and that trend would accelerate.
It would be both prudent and practical to keep a degree of flexibility
“In that context, it would be both prudent and practical to keep a degree of flexibility that would allow us to adjust our programme on an ongoing basis.
“We think that the worst thing Irish farming and agri food can do now is nail ourselves to a rigid programme that we all know will be overtaken by science and data over the next few years.
“We already know that the reductions under the Teagasc MACC will be delivered and we already know that research is well under way on similar projects that will lower emissions without affecting cow numbers and production volumes.”
The ICMSA has said it believes that this has to be a “moving target scenario, where we can all see over a three-year period where the data is going and where we will have to maybe go harder or ease back”.
On the question of Government support for the sector, the ICMSA president was scathing: “Well, if the level of support we got in last week’s budget was any indicator, Ireland hasn’t a hope of hitting these reductions.
“There’s a time when the Government has to stop preaching and start spending and we are at the point now – in fact, we passed it some time ago,” he insisted.
“Direct supports to farmers are being cut relentlessly at the same time as we have this curious official reluctance to ensure that farmers receive the real price for their food products.
“The Government either can’t or won’t confirm the end of the cheap food policy because they are nervous about the current inflationary trend.
“But something’s got to give here - if the cost of producing food is going to go up, and it most certainly is, then direct supports need to increase and the prices farmers receive are going to have to go up.
“It’s a very basic economic sequence and the Government’s nervousness about recognising it is the rock on which all this is going to flounder,” said McCormack.
McCormack said that with an announcement on CAP spending expected on Wednesday, farmers and rural Ireland in general will be perfectly positioned to measure the Government’s commitment, and whether or not the major support programme for agriculture that is clearly required is going to happen.