Farmers are delivering positive environmental change on the ground and the progress they have already made should be recognised, European Commissioner for Financial Stability Mairead McGuinness said.
The farming sector can also meet its environmental targets without reducing output, but farmers’ concerns with the changes that are needed over the coming years are understandable, McGuinness told the Irish Farmers Journal.
The commissioner recognised the changes that are already underway on Irish farms, but acknowledged that “maybe we need to accelerate that change”.
“I think the change is happening. If you talk to younger farmers and, indeed, farmers of all ages, they are implementing changes on their farms around habitats, leaving margins around fields and leaving hedgerows,” she said.
“What we are talking about is: how do we maintain production in a sustainable way? How do we help farmers use less inputs but, at least, not reduce output?
“This is not easy, and we need to work with farmers. I have been saying this for a long time, that the only people who can deliver change on the ground are farmers, and that is what I have been talking to farmers about here today,” she said at the National Ploughing Championships.
Commissioner McGuinness also noted farmers’ calls for clarity on nitrates and the goalposts set for other aspects of the environment.
“What I would try to say to farmers is I know there is uncertainty and you’re anxious about the future, but try and work within your own farm.
“Control what you can within the farm gate, and maybe try not to worry too much about the big picture, because when you do that, it can be overwhelming.
“I think what we are going through now is a transition, and when I talk to farmers here, they want direction, they want certainty. Whether it is about nitrates or it is about other topics, so they can plan for the future.”