There is a small and unrepresentative group of environmental activists “salivating” at the prospect of farmers being faced with cattle culls and the rewetting of reclaimed farmland, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) Dermot Kelleher has claimed.

Kelleher said that a small minority within Government agencies, politics and the media are pushing an extreme agenda which could put farmers off taking environmental action.

“The internal EPA report, which is calling for a one-third cull of livestock numbers, re-wetting of 90% of reclaimed land and quadruple its forestry targets, is the latest example,” said Kelleher.

“Within hours of the report being exposed in the media, a small cabal of unrepresentative but noisy activists were salivating at the prospect of ripping out the heart of economic activity in rural Ireland.”


A willingness to act on environmental concerns was demonstrated by the 46,000 applications to the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES), but these farmers could risk alienation with the extent of some of the proposals being put forward, Kelleher said.

“Farmers are getting sick of the constant baiting,” he added.

The ICSA head warned that farmers are “not going to lie down and take extreme proposals that would destroy their livelihoods and potentially create a food security crisis”.

“The reality is that there is a lot of good will among farmers to develop their farming systems to be more sustainable and many farmers are actively working to improve biodiversity.

“But they are not going to engage if the agenda is the insane vision of a tiny minority where wolves would roam a rural wasteland, consumers would be forced to make do with insect protein and fake burgers and rural communities would be economically devastated.”

Funding needed

Kelleher called for proper funding to be allocated to emissions reduction opportunities for farmers and stated that diversification options must be practical.

“I am sick of people who have no clue of what they are talking about imagining that farmers can easily and profitably switch to growing peas and carrots in the west of Ireland or the golden vale.

“The Government expects that the climate action plan will involve total investment of €125bn across all sectors, but have no proposals on how farmers are expected to fund their targets.”