As debate continues over the next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), the environmental lobby group An Taisce has given its backing to a Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe report which advocates for stopping incentives for land drainage, the reduction of the Irish dairy herd, but also for incentives for hedge and grassland management.
While farmers will have heard An Taisce’s thoughts on reducing dairy cow numbers before, their views on land drainage may come as a concern, as many smaller farmers who are unregistered for VAT not only benefit their farms by improving drainage, but also claimed €83m in fencing and land drainage in 2019.
Any move to prevent land drainage could prove a double whammy for these farmers, unless similar incentives were introduced in other areas.
Surprisingly, other aspects of An Taisce’s views on CAP might be more familiar to farmers and farm organisations.
There is a push to incentivise farmers for high nature value farming and hedgerow management and reward farmers for providing public goods through the environmental management of their farms.
Many farmers are likely to see the endorsement of CAN as adding petrol to the flames after An Taisce’s decision to appeal a High Court decision for the dairy processor Glanbia’s new €140m cheese facility – a facility An Taisce says will harm the environment.
The blame for Irish agriculture’s high emissions – just over one third across all sectors in the country – has been blamed on the expanding dairy herd and An Taisce states that this needs to be addressed, with incentives to reduce the dairy herd and also stop land drainage.
Ireland is an EU outlier in dairy expansion
“Ireland is an EU outlier in dairy expansion. Having declared a ‘climate emergency’ in parliament and with a current coalition Programme for Government annual GHG emission reduction target of 7% until 2030, the national CAP plan must ensure that agriculture plays its fair share in climate action. This requires significant herd reduction,” head of advocacy with An Taisce Ian Lumley said.
Farm organisations, TDs and An Taisce still remain at loggerheads over the Glanbia plant, with all eyes watching to see how the court appeal will play out in what is likely to be a litmus test for the future direction of agriculture.