Diversification will be the key to farmers contributing their share in the State’s path towards net zero, according to Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

Minister Ryan stated that non-production income streams are available to farmers through the forestry programme, anaerobic digestion and through other renewable energy generation options when speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on Thursday.

The minister was attending the launch of a report commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which claimed that the emissions pathway for farmers is less clear than it is for those operating in other sectors of the economy.

The report also claimed that a reduction in livestock numbers will also “likely be necessary” to achieve the State’s legally-binding climate targets for the agricultural sector.


These diversification options must provide an “income for family farms” and be sufficient to entice “young people to go into farming”, Minister Ryan said before listing some of these options he sees for farmers.

“Diversifying into anaerobic digestion where we pay farmers for their skills in helping provide the grass feedstock for that,” he continued.

“Diversifying into solar energy and other renewable powers, which is already happening.

“Diversifying in the new forestry programme where we give really good premiums to support agro-forestry and to support farmers not to stop farming, but to put a hectare in or 2ha to help improve water quality in a nearby stream.”

Land use review

Central to the diversification shift will be the land use review commissioned by Government but yet to be finalised, the minister continued.

The EPA-led climate report published last week pointed towards a “critical gap in research” on the quantifiable potential of the land use sector to contribute towards an economy-wide net zero.

“The key to deliver for agriculture, in my mind, will be this land use review I mentioned because there you have to look at the whole island in an integrated way,” Minister Ryan commented.

“You optimise for rural development first, but also then for storing carbon, for restoring biodiversity, for reducing water and nitrogen pollution, as well as producing high-quality food.”

Doing so is also needed from an agri-food export point of view, he added.

“We trade on an Origin Green brand. We won’t succeed in farming unless we are origin green in everything we do and I think that, absolutely, we can work with the farming community to turn that into an income opportunity for Irish farmers. It won’t work otherwise.”

Read more

Cutting national herd ‘likely to be necessary’ for climate - new report