Ireland can no longer focus on maximising output from farming, but optimising farm practices within environmental bounds, chair of the Citizen’s Assembly on biodiversity loss Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin has said.

“Farmers who addressed the assembly emphasised the fact that farmers will respond to changes in policy, but these need to be meaningful, widely available and of sufficient duration to make it worthwhile to significantly realign their practice.

"Our dependence on farmers for both food production and ecosystem services requires this,” she told the Oireachtas committee on environment this Tuesday.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, she said that farmers are key to combatting biodiversity loss and farmers, as custodians of the land, must be compensated for work they do for ecosystem services.

“Change is difficult and there are people who would like to see the status quo staying,” she said.

Nature restoration

“As we saw with the recent EU Nature Restoration Law, which was supported by this Citizens’ Assembly, policymakers and states can often come under siege by lobbyists and vested interests.

“We are reminded, however, that there are no thriving industries or economies on a planet where nature has gone beyond a point of repair,” she told the committee.

The assembly recommended that the agri-food and other industries must contribute to the conservation and restoration of the environment, from which their shareholders benefit.

“Members of the assembly wanted to highlight that the economy is a subset of nature. We can strengthen our economy by valuing the eco-system services nature provides, as well as building our reputation as a country which authentically values its land and wildlife."