Environmentalists Want Agriculture Reformed

06 Mar 2018 | 04.35 pm

Environmentalists Want Agriculture Reformed

Environmental Pillar says agribusiness as usual is ‘not sustainable’

06 Mar 2018 | 04.35 pm

A coalition of 29 national environmental organisations has demanded that the government overhaul its approach to agriculture by making sustainability the keynote and moving away from “the current business-as-usual model” to one that supports sustainable agroforestry, bioenergy crop agriculture and the protection of peatlands, among other measures to reverse the agricultural sector’s growing contribution to greenhouse gas emissions here.

Representatives from the Environmental Pillar have told the Oireachtas Agricultural Committee that the continued expansion of the meat and dairy sector has led to significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as posing fundamental risks for Irish farming and rural development, and that the Common Agricultural Policy needs to be reformed so as to reward farmers in their role as custodians of the land, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, soils and water quality.

Coordinator Michael Ewing told the committee that the alliance supports the European Commission’s proposal to prioritise rewarding farmers for undertaking environmentally sustainable activities in a results-based system, and is keen to work with farmers to ensure that climate measures are well financed, especially as our changing climate poses a major threat to the livelihood of our farming community.

Ewing said: “We only have to look at the impact of Ophelia and the Beast from the East to see the devastating toll that extreme weather events place on our farming community. The last CAP reform in 2013 was supposed to herald in an era of genuine support for the sustainable management of our natural resources, with funds also ring-fenced for climate protection.

“However, any real reform was thwarted by vested interests whose only concern was to continue a business as usual model that is not working for our environment, or our farmers fighting tooth and nail just to make ends meet.

“We now have a second chance with the upcoming CAP reform to both re-imagine and revitalise Ireland’s food production system and build a forward looking agriculture sector that makes a significant contribution to the tackling climate change.”

More Plants, Lees Meat

Environmental Pillar spokesperson Ian Lumley said: “There is a planetary constraint to the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb greenhouse gases, as well as other issues of mineral soil protection and control of nitrates use. The emission and land resource capacity for beef and dairy production is seriously constrained.

“It should be a general principle of CAP reform that we reach a sustainable food production matrix which enhances food security and biodiversity, reduces climate impact, and supports the promotion of a more plant-based diet. In Ireland, this should mean that we move toward the production of nutritionally diverse plant-based food crops that are climate resilient and compatible with soil conditions and the environment.”

Lumley added that claims that Irish livestock and dairy exports are important to international food and nutrition security are baseless, and said they “ignore the reality that we need deep and sustained emissions cuts at a global level, as the emission and land resource capacity for beef and dairy production is seriously constrained”.

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