Watch: UCD wins Great Agri-Food Debate final
University College Dublin successfully defended its title in the largest ag college debating competition to date at Waterford Institute of Technology. Watch the full debate.

UCD beat Cork IT in a close contest after debating the motion: “Ireland takes its environmental responsibilities and commitments seriously” this Thursday.

Both teams opened the debate with bombshell arguments, with UCD proposing the motion. Una Sinnott said that her team would "not be pulling the wool over your eyes" over the fact that Ireland would miss its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets, but insisted that the targets were wrongly agreed by then Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

"One man's bad judgement cannot represent an entire republic," she added. Sinnott later developed this argument saying: "Lads, we didn't get an industrial revolution. If agriculture represents 30% of emissions, it's a justified 30%."

This was a running theme through UCD's presentations, with Owen Cashman pointing out that Irish livestock are among the most efficient in the world and the country's emissions reflects the fact that "we have committed to feeding the world".

€450m emissions fines

Avril O'Driscoll of the CIT team (pictured) hit where it hurts in her opening speech opposing the motion, highlighting Ireland's expanding "massive dairy herd" and its associated greenhouse gases, as well as the country's sad record as the largest per-capita producer of plastic waste in the EU.

CIT student Donal Hanafin said that Ireland faces €450m fines for missing emissions targets by 2030 despite building as many wind farms as the country's capacity allows. Meanwhile, we import 85% of our fruit and veg, leaving a huge carbon footprint, he added.

His colleague, Lisa Kelleher, said that every Irish person produces 61kg of plastic waste each year, and 79% is not recycled. China banned imports of Irish plastics for recycling last month and this issue is now "at crisis point," illustrating the authorities' failure to tackle environmental issues and support those citizens who show concern for the environment, the CIT team argued.

UCD carried the day with clever interjections during CIT's arguments and flamboyant performances by Tommy Meade, who referenced his uncle's decision to fix a dangerous slurry leak and "risk his life for the fish of the River Boyne," and Una Sinnott, who won a second straight best speaker award.

Best speakers in the other debates on the day were Avril O'Driscoll of CIT, Aoife Forde of WIT and Owen Cashman of UCD.

The two finalist teams beat off stiff competition from Dundalk Institute of Technology, WIT and University College Cork earlier in the day.

The judging panel of 12 included industry leaders from finance, food safety, retail and agriculture such as Niall Browne, chief executive of Dawn Meats, and Peter Garbutt, agricultural manager of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, with both companies sponsoring the event.

Tara McCarthy, chief executive of Bord Bia, Ciaran Finegan of BWG Foods, and Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, were also among judges.

Irish Farmers Journal editor Justin McCarthy was chairing the final debate.

After starting within UCD three years ago, the debating competition has grown to attract teams from five different colleges this year. Browne said he hoped a college from Northern Ireland would join the competition next year.

UCD won the Great Agri-Food Debate last year.

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Profiles of staff and students from the five universities taking part

This week in photos: milking and the harvest continues
Our top photos from the last week include farming in Limerick, Tipperary and Wexford.

This week's front cover: milking in Co Limerick

Eoin Carroll from Ballyvolane, Co Limerick milking cows on the farm of John McNamara in Gormanstown, Co Limrick. Eoin is currently completing the work experience element of his Leaving Cert agricultural sciene project on John's farm. He is working part time on the farm and gaining experience in areas including grassland management, herd health and milking. \ Philip Doyle

Loading cattle in Co Limerick

Paddy Leahy from Kilmallock, Co Limerick transferring his Angus cattle to a trailer, having sold them to Foyle Meats in Donegal. Paddy says its crazy that he has to sell to a factory in Donegal but they are giving him the best price at the moment. Paddy farms Angus, Hereford and continentals. For the last few weeks he has fed them silage and 8kg of meal a day. He says it is a relief to get rid of them due to the drought conditions and the additional costs that that has brought. \ Philip Doyle

My farming week in Co Tipperary

Michael Condon from Newcastle, Co Tipperary delivers zero-grazed grass from Jim O'Leary's farm for feeding. Michael farms with his father and uncle in south Tipperary. The mixed farm is mainly in corn but also rears calves from neighbouring farms. \ Donal O'Leary

Harvesting in Co Wexford

Lester Rothwell harvesting Infinity winter barley in Lacken, Co Wexford. The crop was sown in the first week of October. Lester harvested a separate field of Infinity barley the previous day and got a yield of 3.3t/acre, but was confident that this crop will perform better. \ Philip Doyle

Harvesting in Co Dublin

The Fitzgerald family harvesting in Newpark, north Co Dublin. Cousins James and John are cutting Tower winter barley, along with James' sons Finn and Jack. The crop's moisture is 18.5% with a bushel weight of 67KPH. \ Philip Doyle

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This week in photos: New Ross and Newport Marts

Around the country in pictures

This week in photos: Loughrea Mart and winter barley harvesting

Prime Minister visits but no new thinking
Stalemate continues in EU-UK negotitions on Brexit with positions restated in Brussels and Belfast on the occasion of PM visit

The UK Prime Minister spent Thursday and Friday in Northern Ireland and included a visit to the border in Belleek, Co Fermanagh. At the same time, the EU was publishing its advice and outlining specifically what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which was of little comfort to Irish agriculture either side of the border.

Restating positions

The PM’s keynote speech of her visit was delivered in Belfast on Friday and it bluntly rejected the notion that the backstop agreement of Northern Ireland (NI) retaining access to the EU services would not be accepted by the UK government if it applied to NI alone, effectively creating a border in the Irish sea.

At the same time, the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was giving his first formal response to the UK white paper on Brexit, submitted a week earlier.

While the tone of his delivery was courteous and conciliatory, there was no doubt left that even as it was presented then, it was not going to fly in Brussels as it was looking for de facto membership of the single market for industrial goods and agricultural produce but not accepting the four principles of the single market.

The chief negotiator did, however, acknowledge that it was the basis for negotiation and he committed as did the new Brexit secretary in the UK government, Dominic Raab, to an intensive negotiation continuing over the summer.

No solution for farmers or business

Where does this leave farmers on the island of Ireland? A quick glance at the 16-page EU document published on Friday suggests that they, like all other sections of society, will be in a very difficult place, with the trading normality that is currently enjoyed, shattered.

As well as the tariff issue, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules will be enforced on any trade from the UK to the EU, which will involve physical inspections. This is in addition to the tariff issue that has been frequently covered by the Irish Farmers Journal.

As the positions stand, redefined by the UK and EU at the end of this week, it is impossible to see the basis for common ground develop.

One side or the other will have to back away from red lines that they have drawn. The only possibility is that every negotiation needs stalemate, walkouts and lots of brinkmanship. The consequences of a no-deal Brexit were set out by the International Monetary Fund earlier in the week and unsurprisingly there are no winners, only losers. And Ireland would be the biggest loser of all.