A co-operative model of supplying feedstock to anaerobic digestion plants could benefit farmers negotiating supply agreements with the biomethane industry over the coming years, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said.

Minister Ryan commented that those negotiating such agreements should seek part ownership of the plants they supply, when speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal at Renewable Gas Forum Ireland’s conference yesterday.

Farming organisations have a role to play in exploring the “exact mechanism” that would allow farmers to take a stake in the industry they supply, the environment minister added.

“Farmers are business enterprises and if we can work in that co-operative tradition farmers have to negotiate for themselves, I think that’s going to be the biggest opportunity,” he said. “They are the biggest actors here in being able to provide that feedstock, be it grass or slurry or other fuel crops, and the exact mix is going to vary area to area but, for it work, it has to benefit the Irish farming community.”

Political changes

Minister Ryan stated that securing the funding needed to meet EU climate targets passed in the last term of the European Parliament will top the agenda of the new set of MEPs elected.

He said that he does not see any major changes to the direction of energy and environmental policy resulting from a different makeup of the Parliament.

“I don’t see it changing whatever the political complexion in the Parliament [nor] Europe resiling from the very extensive legislation that was introduced in the last five years, the Fit for 55 agenda.

“I think the real issue now is where the money is going to come from,” the minister commented.

He also rejected the idea that farmers believe in that there is a “greens versus farmers” conflict in policy, claiming that farmers understand that diversification “is where the income is going to come from” into the future.