We are at a time of much transition for our great sector.
This is not rhetoric. This is fact.
However, for our sector, change, evolution and transition is nothing new as we as have always moved to adapt new technologies, pioneer new techniques and target new practices.
We had lowlands and uplands. We had some great land and some fine Donegal hills to farm on
I grew up on a suckler and sheep farm in Co Donegal.
We had lowlands and uplands. We had some great land and some fine Donegal hills to farm on.
Our farm reared myself and my five siblings. The farm put me through college and gave me the crucial grounding that has served me well in politics.
I also had the privilege of working the farm in my own right before entering politics. Without my start on the home farm, I firmly believe that I would not be where I am today.
Our farming and agri-food sector is a truly unique one that supports so many areas of our economy. It is dominated by livestock. We have 80% of our agricultural area under permanent grassland-producing beef and dairy products that are exported to 180 countries all over the world. The sector accounts for 8% of all employment and 10% of all exports that leave Ireland are agri-food-based.
Over the coming months, some of the most significant policy decisions affecting Irish agriculture will play out
Our recently launched Food Vision 2030 strategy will see our agri-food exports grow to €21bn by 2030.
Over the coming months, some of the most significant policy decisions affecting Irish agriculture will play out.
We must complete our new CAP programme to have it in place for the start of 2023. It is the most ambitious CAP ever in terms of our responsibilities and ambitions around addressing climate change as well as biodiversity and water quality decline.
I am extremely committed to protecting our derogation
I am working constructively with my cabinet colleagues to ensure that the implementation of the Climate Action Plan will see the unique status of Irish agriculture taken into account when forming carbon budgets.
We also continue work around the new Nitrates Action Programme and I am extremely committed to protecting our derogation. It has helped drive our sustainable production and I will fight tooth and nail to see it maintained.
I recognise the positive environmental action engaged in over many years by farmers
These key policy decisions will leave an indelible mark on agriculture, but I entirely reject the notion that any of these have to be negative or destructive. We will evolve, we will change, we will transition and adapt… but this will be for the better.
I recognise the positive environmental action engaged in over many years by farmers and support them in taking the further steps required to meet our increased ambition now. Our farmers continue to be genuine pioneers in this area.
I need to be clear – there is a climate crisis. Government policy requires emissions reductions across the whole economy.
I am aware that there are those who target farming for particular attention when it comes to climate change. I can assure that this is not a Government perspective.
The programme for government recognises the special position of agriculture in the Irish economy and climate policy will reflect that principle. But, of course, agriculture will have to make its contribution and I know farmers are up for that challenge.
If our efforts to mitigate climate change are to work, farmers, policymakers and industry must work together.
Of course, there is a strong market dimension with consumers more aware of how their food produced. We must work together on this, if we want it to work.
Therefore, it is crucial to that we do three things.
A hallmark of my time as minister has been listening to and engaging with farmers and their organisations. I have held many meetings with farm organisations and my Department operates an open-door policy with all organisations.
I am visiting a mart in every county where I am meeting with farmers and their organisations at each of their meetings
You may be reading this article on Thursday at your kitchen table or in the chair after the evening jobs. If you are, I am probably speaking with farmers in either Mayo or Sligo as part of my ongoing nationwide CAP consultation tour.
I am visiting a mart in every county where I am meeting with farmers and their organisations at each of their meetings.
I am keen to hear the views of farmers in every county as views vary from county to county and I am committed to giving every farmer a voice in the CAP process.
After all, this is their CAP. This is your CAP.
I am excited about the future
This decade will be a decade of change for Irish agriculture, but I can assure you that in 10 years’ time, even in 20 years’ time and beyond, producing high-quality meat and milk protein will remain the bedrock of Ireland’s agri-food industry. This will be backed by our own ambition for a vibrant tillage sector too.
I am excited about the future. I will stand full square behind our farmers in the time ahead and help them through the challenges we face.