Support for young farmers to adopt new practices is essential to tackle the challenges facing agriculture, Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy has said, responding to the publication of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021.
“The comments by Minister Ryan that farming cannot reduce in the same way as energy or transport is welcome, the complexities of our food system are far greater than any other sector,” stated Duffy.
Macra na Feirme said divisive rhetoric around mandatory herd culls or a return to herd limits were entirely unproductive, saying the focus must be on reducing methane, not herd numbers.
Better herd management, livestock genetics and reducing breeding and slaughter ages can achieve significant reductions in national methane emissions, while protecting farm incomes.
Further measures such as changing to protected urea, reductions in feed protein and better incorporation of clover have all been shown to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Many of these key elements are laid out in the Government’s Ag-Climatise strategy and the Teagasc MACC.
However, concerns have been raised by the young farmer organisation about the potential success of these unless key issues are addressed.
“If we want to change practices, the first thing we must do is look at the makeup of farming. Less than 5% of farmers are under the age of 35. This is because young trained farmers are not able to access the land or credit they need. If you want to change practice, young driven farmers are what is needed,” said Duffy.
Inconsistency between European and Irish governmental ambition and many of the policies currently in place has often been regarded by farmers as a major obstacle to any environmental improvement.
“The most essential thing Irish Government can do is to offer support for change and remove the many roadblocks and contradictions to more climate friendly agriculture,” Duffy said.
The loss of products which protect certain crops, such as Irish-grown protein feeds and clover, while reducing weeds have been highlighted as a lack of consistency between Government intent and practice on the ground.
The failure to promote under-16-month bull beef or ensure investment in sexed semen are also highlighted as areas where Government policy is lacking.