The focus for reducing emissions from agriculture should be on better breeding, feed additives and the development of renewable energy, not “simplistic and populist” proposals to cut suckler cow numbers, the IFA has said.
Proposals from outgoing chair of climate change advisory council Professor John Fitzgerald to reduce suckler cow numbers were “short-sighted” and “failed to take account of the economic and social contribution made by sucklers”, IFA president Tim Cullinan said.
“John Fitzgerald should be using his platform to convince our Government that agriculture has a role to play, rather than relegating our largest indigenous industry,” he said.
IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said Fitzgerald’s appraisal of beef farming and environmental impacts applied the same double standards as EU trade deals.
“The income difficulties in the beef sector existed before Brexit and are largely caused by the continual undermining of key UK and EU markets by substandard beef allowed on to the market, produced in countries that allow the decimation of rainforests,” he said.
Golden said Fitzgerald should be calling out the lack of cohesion in EU environmental and trade policy rather than choosing “a simplistic and populist narrative to grab cheap, but very damaging, media exposure for himself".
In an interview with the Farming Independent, Fitzgerald said if dairy output was to continue at current levels, a cut to the national herd was “inevitable”, but it should occur on the beef side first.
Golden said: “As an economist, John Fitzgerald might ask why farmers operate below the cost of production when other players in the chain enjoy margins that are not disclosed.
“Beef farmers are the foundation stone of an important export-oriented sector that has a significant reach across the country and in particular in rural communities, adding huge socio-economic and environmental value to the country while producing beef to the highest standards."
Golden said beef farmers would play their part, but would not be sacrificed because of an approach to climate action that chased easy options.