Demonisation of Agriculture Needs to Stop. –  ICMSA.

Irish farmers have a critical role to play in Ireland’s climate strategy and we need to move away from demonising the sector and start to put in place real plans to allow the sector to continue to do what it is good at, producing sustainable quality food contributing to EU and global food security and delivering on measures to reduce Ireland’s emissions, according to Mr. Pat McCormack, President of ICMSA.

Mr. McCormack said that negative commentary regarding agriculture emissions in recent days has not been helpful and will do little to foster a partnership approach to our climate challenge which is needed if we are to meet our targets. ICMSA’s firm view is that a 22% target is hugely challenging for the agriculture sector but it is a target that is realistic and achievable if the Government puts in place appropriate supports which it has completely failed to do to date. However, Mr. McCormack said, that with a 22% target, that will not be the end of farmers contribution to climate change. The facts are that under the Inventory on emissions, some significant greenhouse gas emission measures taken by farmers on their farms will not be recognised under the Agriculture Inventory and thus will not contribute to the 22% reduction. Instead, these reductions will be allocated to for example the energy or LULUCF sectors and thus the contribution for farmers will be substantially higher than the 22% reduction.

Farmers, Mr. McCormack said, are very angry at the aggressive approach being taken against our sector in recent days and some of these commentators need to inform themselves of the facts. For example, if every farmer in the country installed solar panels on their farms producing renewable carbon free energy, this would not be reflected in the 22% reduction figure, instead it would be allocated to the energy inventory. If every farmer planted 100 native trees that would sequester carbon and also contribute to biodiversity, this would not be reflected in the 22% reduction but would be allocated to the LULUCF sector. These are the realities of the climate inventory and if we are to maximise the potential of the farmer contribution to climate change, we need to move away from demonising the sector and actually put in place plans to maximise its potential and work with farmers in a positive fashion.

Irish farmers as food producers, are amongst the most sustainable in the world and ICMSA welcomes Minister Ryan’s comments that they will be no compulsory reduction in livestock numbers but it is important to say that Irish farmers are already working to become more sustainable and individual farmers must be allowed to develop their business in a sustainable manner going forward.

Commenting of the 2021 figures which showed an increase in agriculture emissions, Mr. McCormack said, that he expected that the 2022 figure will be lower with fertiliser sales probably down 25% year to date, an increased use of protected urea, continued growth in low emission slurry spreading and farmers will also be contributing to other sectors with for example increased installation of solar panels, tree planting and better hedgerow management.  

Despite all the negative commentary in recent days, farmers are not the demons they are being portrayed as, they are making a significant contribution not just in agriculture but across other sectors and the Government at this stage needs to put its cards on the table in terms of supports so that farmers can contribute further in a positive and constructive manner, concluded Mr. McCormack.

Ends   21st July 2022

Pat McCormack is (087) 7608958.

ICMSA Head Office: (061) 314677.