Cutting the national herd to reduce farming’s greenhouse gas emissions is not an option Sinn Féin is considering in its climate policy.
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Irish Farmers Journal that technologies, such as those on display at the National Ploughing Championships, could help farmers drop emissions to the legally-binding ceiling set by Government.
“If you are asking are we proposing to cut the herd, no we are not,” she said.
McDonald recognised the need for climate action, but defended the party's position of not putting a figure on the emissions reduction it would have sought from farmers if it was in Government.
“Well, what we didn’t do was pluck a figure out of thin air to provide to the media. We didn’t do that,” she said.
McDonald commented that it would be unfair to place the burden of emissions reductions on individual farmers or even on specific sectors within the industry.
She also said that Sinn Féin would see the carrying out of an “on-the-ground assessment on a farm-by-farm basis” of emissions and removals as a priority in its efforts to turn the tide on the sector’s emissions, if elected to Government.
McDonald also told the Irish Farmers Journal that it was not fair to penalise individual dairy farmers for increasing numbers since the abolition of quotas, as Government policy had pushed them in the direction of expansion.
“Look, the dairy sector expanded dramatically because that was Government policy. I well remember when Simon Coveney was the minister for agriculture, him actively encouraging people to expand production.
“So, I think now when things have to change by way of necessity, it is not actually feasible, credible or fair for the same people who encouraged all this in the dairy sector to come and point the finger of blame at dairy farmers. That, to me, is entirely wrong.”
Cast as villains
The opposition leader claimed that farmers feel like they are being treated unfairly by commentators over their contribution to the economy’s impact on the environment.
“I think there is also a level of resentment that I have been picking up. That they have been cast as villains now. Our position is that farmers are the custodians of the land.
“We have a product for export that is unmatched in terms of dairy, in terms of beef, but we do have to protect that,” she said.