Irish Agriculture faces a huge challenge if it is to significantly reduce its environmental impact going into the future. That’s according to the Green Party based on their analysis of the Climate Action Plan released by government yesterday.
Green Party Spokesperson for Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Cllr Pippa Hackett—herself a beef and sheep farmer in County Offaly—was critical of the plan’s approach to agriculture and land use: “While we welcome the government’s plan, it is hard to see how the measures outlined for agriculture and land use will result in the dramatic emissions reduction that is required. The emissions from agriculture have been rising when they should have been decreasing, so more of the same approach is unlikely to have the desired effect.
“The current model of food production has failed the vast majority of our farmers, and also our environment, and without some fundamental changes to that policy, we are unlikely to reach the targets that have been set. We need to move away from the intensive, so-called ‘efficient’, models of production based on stocking rates, and towards more extensive, nature-friendly farming practices that improve carbon sequestration by storing carbon in our soils, hedges, wetlands, and forests.
“Where are the big plans for forestry and biodiversity? Biodiversity does not get one mention in the list of actions. Neither do the words ‘native’ or ‘broadleaf’, and the plan indicates that it will merely ‘consider’ agroforestry. I believe that if we adopt the farming practices which serve to protect and enrich our soils, improve biodiversity, and benefit water and air quality, then the carbon emissions will naturally reduce. We should be focussing on these aspects, rather than solely on technological and genetic solutions which to date have done little to address the rising emissions from this sector. Efficiencies don’t count for much when overall emissions keep rising, there needs to be a broader holistic approach, which factors in the whole sector, from farm to fork.
“It’s also time we moved away from the agriculture schemes which are coupled with stock numbers. A recent European analysis of the BDGP scheme questioned its environmental benefits. Farming will always be about food production, but it must also be about environmental protection. In order to achieve that we really need to diversify the type of food we grow and produce, and how we farm our land. If this is done correctly, then we will see improved incomes for farm families, and a sustainable future for these communities which are vital to the future viability of rural Ireland.”
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