An Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described the “obsession with the national herd” as “incredible” and questioned why many stakeholders are “looking at this issue [carbon targets] through this prism” solely.
He reiterated that the “key issue is emissions” and said that his “Government will work with farmers from the ground up” to achieve agriculture’s carbon emissions target, a range of reduction between 22% and 30%.
He was speaking at the launch of the Government’s Climate Action Plan on Thursday.
Role of agriculture
An Taoiseach said Irish agriculture will play its part in reducing emissions, but clarified that this must be seen in the context of the importance of food production and security.
He noted that the Irish agriculture sector is one of the most sustainable producers of food in the world, but said “we have to do better”.
He said: “We need greater productivity and efficiency in terms of how we produce food and there’s a number of ways of achieving that.”
He said the measures for agriculture listed in the Climate Action Plan were arrived at through collaboration between Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Environment and Climate Action Eamon Ryan.
He described the importance of investment in technology and research to make agriculture’s emissions targets a reality.
An Taoiseach reminded stakeholders that he thinks it will be the consumer who will “demand food with low carbon emissions” and that they will demand accountability from producers in this regard.
When asked by the Irish Farmers Journal about his previous comments that the KPMG analysis of the potential impact of emissions reduction on rural Ireland was “scaremongering”, he said he believes “jobs will actually be created”, instead of lost.
He said the plan will give a future that is sustainable for young farmers and listed a series of measures that are already ongoing and will be expanded on, including the use of mixed species swards and low emission slurry spreading.
“There is a genuine appetite to engage with research bodies like Teagasc which I think will make our food products even more efficient.”
Less Greens versus farmers
Joining An Taoiseach at the plan launch, Minister Eamon Ryan said “we need to create further income schemes for farmers” and that he is “inpatient with the need to get on with that”.
“We do need income schemes to facilitate the enhancement and protection of our biodiversity in future.”
The Green Party leader reiterated that “we need to break this old narrative of farmers versus Greens” and said “that does not work for anyone”.
Concluding, he outlined that in his view “the farmer isn’t getting the right price from the processor or retailer” and that it will be the retailer who will need to pay better prices for more sustainable food produced in future.