Farmers brand 25% emissions cut as 'impossible'
This afternoon's reported agreement of 25% emissions reduction for agriculture, between the Green Party and their government partners has already been branded as "impossible" by one farming body.
The carbon emissions reduction target is expected to be formally announced this evening, bringing an end to negotiations which have rumbled on since the sectoral parameters of 22-30% were announced last April.
Pat McCormack, president of the ICMSA, which represents dairy farmers said the Government’s decision will have "wholly negative and predictable economic, social and demographic consequences for the massive areas of the state that depended on farming and food production".
He further claimed it was "a sell-out of our family farm model" and favoured sectors such as aviation over farming.
Having argued in recent weeks that 22% reduction was the most the sector could attempt, McCormack said the 25% target represented much more than just an additional three per cent.
"The original target was going to be very difficult but at least warranted an effort. Pushing that to 25% reduction over an eight-year time frame now moved policy from ‘difficult’ to ‘impossible’ and actually meant that the policy was now literally incredible in that it was not credible or possible to have confidence in.
"If it is not realistic – and 25% is not realistic – then the whole process loses all momentum, trust and confidence,” said Mr McCormack.
Meanwhile, IFA President Tim Cullinan described the 25% ceiling as "a potentially devastating blow for Irish farming" and surmised the deal is about the survival of the Government rather than survival of rural Ireland.
“The Government has agreed to a target without any pathway to get there or any budget to assist farmers to reduce emissions. They have no idea of the economic and social impact of today’s decision on the farming sector or rural Ireland. Farmers across the country will be rightly worried about what this means for their future,” he said.
“The implementation plan to achieve the target will be vital. I want to make it clear that any attempt to undermine farmers' livelihoods or the viability of sector, in order to achieve these targets, will be opposed vigorously by the IFA,” he said.
“The Government will have to come forward with real proposals and proper funding to support climate measures including on-farm renewable energy and ensure that farmers get full credit for this.
“We are still strongly of the view that the Government has not complied with the requirements in the Climate Act in relation to carbon leakage and the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane. These will have to be taken on board by the Government,” he said.
Finally, the ICSA president Dermot Kelleher responded by saying that the government must insist on a complete blanket ban at EU level on meat imports from outside the EU.
“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,” he said.
Mr Kelleher also called on the government to deliver on financial support for farmers to implement 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.”