ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said that the government must now insist on a complete blanket ban at EU level on meat imports from outside the EU given the incredible stress farmers have been put under in recent weeks. “Farmers have been made to feel that the high quality, high protein, nutritious food they supply to European markets is now something to be ashamed of. The environmental lobby has a lot of soul searching to do in terms of some of the more extreme demands based on dubious assertions about the sustainability of this food. But it would now be hypocrisy on a grandiose scale if farmers are forced to watch beef, chicken, and dairy from all over the world being shipped into the EU on favourable terms while Irish farmers are faced with cuts.”
Mr Kelleher also said that while farmers are willing to do everything they can to improve sustainability and reduce emissions, the government will have to step up to the plate and deliver on the financial support that farmers need to implement existing and soon to be available technologies. “Moreover, money will have to be front-loaded into research on carbon storage in soil, trees and hedgerows with a view to farmers being able to either offset emissions like other sectors or to sell carbon credits.”
“Furthermore, the government must now stop the endless prevarication on solar panels, anaerobic digesters, and biofuels to enable farmers to benefit while helping energy de-carbonisation. However, the blatantly unfair allocation of emissions reductions from such technologies to the energy sector must be reviewed. Regardless of the current accounting methods, we cannot allow a debate in the coming years to rage on without proper measurement of all the positive things done on farms including energy and ensuring that farmers are properly recognised for this.”
“Finally, it is deeply regrettable that the government has put in place hugely challenging targets without any clear plan for farmers on how 25% can be achieved. When farmers have pointed this out, they have been subjected to a relentless attacks by a vociferous lobby who have refused to listen to real concerns about how this can be practically achieved without destroying farm viability.”
“Farmers are already innovating in terms of being more sustainable with a lot of focus on manure management, improved genetics and reduced fertiliser and energy use. A lot will depend on a viable price being paid to beef farmers to finish cattle earlier because this costs money.
Nonetheless, farmers have always adapted, and we know that farmers will do their best to achieve ever-greater results on producing the best, most nutritious and sustainable food in the world.”