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MISLEADING NARRATIVE AROUND CLIMATE TARGET FOR AGRICULTURE MUST STOP – ICSA AGM 2023

Feb 9, 2023 | Latest News, Press Releases | 0 comments

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has called on the Government, the media and all those engaged in the climate debate to stop the narrative that the target of 25% for agriculture is low in comparison to other sectors in the Climate Action Plan. Speaking at the ICSA AGM and Conference held in Portlaoise today. Mr Kelleher said, “Commentary around the target for agriculture being low is very misleading when you consider that the burden is not spread out over the entire population as is the case in other sectors. The entire burden for meeting the target for agriculture is falling on approximately 100,000 farmers, a tiny fraction of the population.”

“For clarity, agriculture is expected to deliver a reduction of 5.75 Mtons CO2 eq which is not far removed from the electricity target of 7 Mtons CO2 eq, and the transport target of 6 Mtons CO2 eq. However, the responsibility for reaching the electricity and transport targets is spread out over the whole population, while the target for agriculture must be met by a community that makes up just 2% of the population – farmers.”

Mr Kelleher demanded progress on helping active farmers to become more profitable and at the same time more sustainable. “The Climate Action Plan offers nothing in terms of financial support to active, productive farmers wishing to adapt their farming enterprises. It also hasn’t been explained to farmers what they are expected to do.”

“Further, the farming community is predominantly made up of low-income livestock farmers – those producing our beef, lamb, and grains – with only 18,000 farmers engaged in the more profitable dairy sector. This is significant as it illustrates just how much those who can least afford it are being asked to do with little or no support.”

Mr Kelleher reiterated ICSA’s demand for a €250 million per annum support programme for helping farmers achieve climate targets. ICSA proposed €80 million for store producers and beef finishers for a scheme to weigh cattle at regular intervals with a view to earlier average finishing. ICSA also proposed an additional €60 million for suckler farmers over and above what has been agreed in the CAP and promised in the budget. For sheep farmers we have insisted that the sector needs €50 million in addition to the CAP support to deliver a ewe payment of €35/ewe.

“In addition, ICSA has called on Minister McConalogue to deliver a package of exceptional aid for the sheep farmers who are currently enduring unprecedented losses. ICSA has proposed exceptional aid at a level of €20/hd up to a maximum of five hundred head of lambs, which have been sold at significantly reduced prices over the period August 2022 to February 2023.”

Mr Kelleher said, “It is inescapable that both the Government and Brussels must face up to the cost inflation crisis. Analysis by our partners in Farm Europe indicates that the CAP will be worth one-third less in real terms in 2027 compared to 2020. There is a review of the EU budget in 2023 and this is the time for Ireland to argue for a complete re-calculation and I am calling on the Government to support a substantial revamp in CAP funding.”

Mr Kelleher urged the Minister to find a way to ensure that all ACRES applicants are accepted into the scheme. If you help farmers in the right way, farmers will deliver on biodiversity, water quality and climate – and keep delivering.”

He said “Too many policies are targeting farmers as the problem not the solution. How else can you explain the Nature Restoration Regulation or the planned Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation? Widespread re-flooding land that has been productively farmed is not a way forward. Widespread bans on sprays without alternative products is not a way forward. We need sensible compromises that recognise that food security needs to be balanced with nature objectives.”

On forestry Mr Kelleher called on the Minister to intervene in relation to the disgraceful plans to allow an English based investment fund to take over Irish land, under the cover of a Coillte plan to increase forest cover. ICSA objects strongly to the fact that government policy on forestry has failed farmers and we object to Gresham House benefitting from €25 million from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. Farmers have not been given the chance to deliver on tree planting.”

On the TB Eradication Programme, Mr Kelleher insisted the prevarication around who will pay for pre and post movement testing must end. “I am calling on you to stop messing around and to pay for pre and post movement testing. The additional testing under the EU Animal Health Law is not acceptable if it marks a departure from the key principle that farmers pay for one herd test and one herd test only each year.”

Mr Kelleher said ICSA wants to see the end of routine BVD sampling and the introduction of   genomic testing of calves. “Instead of BVD tagging, ICSA believes that we now need to tag calves after birth for genomic sampling. This will make the suckler scheme more workable and it will deliver Commercial Beef Values on mart boards for farmers feeding calves. However, we remain steadfast in our opposition to the compulsory requirement for suckler farmers in the suckler scheme to be quality assured.”

Mr Kelleher said ICSA wants to see the Agri-Food Regulator appointed without any more delay. “Delivering fairness in the Food Chain and transparency over who makes what must be a priority.”

He said it is also time for the entire country to get behind Irish farming as it seeks to meet its climate target. “There has been enough negativity thrown at Irish farming. We have a huge task ahead of us in terms of meeting our climate obligations and staying in business. The scale of this should not be underestimated by anyone in the Government, in the media or anywhere else.”

ENDS

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