Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) deputy president Brian Rushe has labelled comments made by Holly Cairns TD that the farm organisation is denying climate science as a “cheap shot”.
Refuting the allegations, Rushe said he “completely” disagrees with the Social Democrat leader’s view and criticised her for what he termed as a “lazy sound bite”.
Speaking to Waterford Local Radio (WLR) this week, Deputy Cairns accused the IFA of not representing all farmers and labelled it as an organisation which is walking farmers to a climate “cliff edge”.
“What we need from farming organisations and government is a path for us to lead the way on sustainable agriculture, not denying reality and walking farmers to a cliff edge,” she said.
Rushe insisted that the IFA is a democratic organisation where the views of farmers on the ground are channelled upwards and communicated by the association’s leadership.
“While not all farmers are members of the IFA, we do represent a broad suite of farmers that are representative of the general view. Our views are informed by our different committees and county executives,” he explained.
The IFA deputy president said the farm sector and environmentalists need to “move beyond this divisive language and alienation”, something he said Holly Cairns TD is “guilty of straight away”.
“It is very hard for farmers to trust her when she says something like that,” he said.
Rushe suggested Deputy Cairns meet with some of the dairy farmers supplying Carbery Co-op, for example, who he said place emissions reduction and sustainability as a key objective.
“She doesn’t have far to go there,” he added, and highlighted that in the Social Democrat leader’s constituency, west Cork, there are many full-time dairy farmers who have no diversification options which would allow them to make the same viable income.