Farmers should be pushing for action on climate change, because farmers will be those who are hit most by its impacts, European Commissioner for Financial Stability Mairead McGuinness has said.

Speaking at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Ireland’s Michael Dillon memorial lecture on Friday last, she said that she hopes farmers begin to push harder, because it’s in their best interests.

We can’t keep doing things the way we have been doing them up to now, she said in relation to biodiversity loss and resource scarcity.

She said that a question often put to her by farmers is how action on farms is going to be funded and where is the money going to come from for this action.

“There’s a big challenge here, because the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is there, it does provide income support for farmers. More and more, it’s being diverted to support environmental delivery. I’m not fond of the too many schemes we have. I think it’s confusing and complex. I would much rather that we just leave nature in certain parts of our farms alone, rather than get at it for five years and then forget it when the scheme has ended,” she said.

McGuinness, who served as chair of the guild for two terms, said that the message from the European Commission on the derogation was clear, that there would be no flexibility on the move from 250kg organic N/ha to 220kg.

“Not everyone is happy, but I think clarity is really important. The challenge now for all of us is to make sure that the 220kg is maintained and we can do that, because we need to tackle some issues around water. And not only the farming community need to tackle issues around water. I think if you look at the discharges that are happening from some urban wastewater [plants], we know there are lots of things to be addressed,” she said.