Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has given the dairy sector another warning that further expansion is problematic if Irish farming is to meet its sectoral target for carbon reduction.
Speaking at the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA) AGM on Friday, Minister McConalogue said: "The stark reality is that total emissions from the dairy herd continue to increase and this is something that we do need to address."
He continued: "The Climate Action Plan has set a target of 22% to 30% for reductions in emissions (from agriculture) and let me be clear, this is a target that is challenging but achievable. This will mean stabilising and then reducing the total carbon emissions from the dairy sector."
Minister McConalogue did acknowledge the progress in terms of carbon emissions per litre of milk produced, but it's hard to read his comments as anything other than a call for dairy cow numbers to stop increasing.
However, he did rule out cutting cow numbers, saying: "The old trope of cutting livestock numbers is something that I never wanted to do and it isn’t Government policy. We must reduce emissions yes, but that does not mean reducing livestock numbers."
On Friday, he criticised the An Taisce legal fight against Glanbia's new cheese plant, which essentially argues the new plant would result in significant dairy expansion to supply the milk it required for processing.
“The ultimate reward for this,” the Minister concluded, “is not just meeting a regulatory requirement, but rather putting the dairy sector into a position where it is recognised in international markets as a leader in its commitment to environmental sustainability.”