Farmers are being reminded to submit their views on the agri-food strategy 2030 ahead of the 15 June deadline.
The strategy was compiled by the Department of Agriculture with input from farm organisations, Teagasc and other industry stakeholders, and is seeking feedback on its targets and strategies.
They centre on the climate, water quality, biodiversity and air quality.
Among the targets are a 10% cut in methane from livestock by 2030, a 55,000t cut in chemical nitrogen use and the setting aside of 10% of farmed land for biodiversity by 2030.
Annual chemical nitrogen use is not to exceed 325,000t by 2030 under the strategy.
Current chemical nitrogen use is 380,500t, so this implies a cut of 55,500t is needed in nitrogen use by 2030.
Land for biodiversity
Some 10% of farmed land is to be prioritised for biodiversity under the strategy.
This would mean that 445,580ha would be earmarked for biodiversity – an area slightly bigger than the county of Tipperary.
The strategy also wants to reduce the management intensity of a minimum 40,000ha of peat-based agricultural soils, with an ambition to substantially increase over the decade and genotype the entire national herd by 2030.
Organic farming and slurry
The area farmed for organics is to reach at least 7.5% of farmland by 2030. Currently, less than 2% of utilised agricultural area (UAA) Irish farmland, some 74,000ha, is under organic production.
The strategy proposes that 90% of all slurry application is to be carried out by low-emission equipment by 2027 and all external slurry stores are to be covered by 2027 to mitigate ammonia emissions.
National herd and biogenic methane
There is to be a biogenic methane (methane from livestock) reduction of between 24% and 47% by 2050, with an interim target of a minimum 10% reduction by 2030.
Under the auspices of the 2030 process, detailed plans are to be produced by the second quarter of 2022 “to manage the sustainable environmental footprint of the dairy and the beef sectors”.
The strategy says that Ireland will play an active and constructive role in developing measures to realise the European targets of a 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2030.
More targeted agri- environmental schemes
It proposes more targeted agri-environmental results-based schemes under the CAP’s Rural Development Programme (RDP) and also wants to examine options for afforestation on State-owned lands, building on initiatives from Coillte and Bord na Móna and placing farmers at the centre of a new and improved afforestation scheme. This could see farmers plant trees along watercourses as well as planting new native woodlands and small forest areas.
Carbon farming offers a potential new source of income for farmers, but it is still in the early stages of development, the strategy says.
Views can be submitted by emailing 2030Strategy EnvironmentalConsultation @agriculture.gov.ie.