Irish farmers outraged over 25% emissions reduction plan that will lead to herd culling

Keean Bexte

August 4, 2022

Irish farmers and organizations in the agriculture industry are outraged over the government’s plan to cut agriculture emissions by 25%, all while claiming it won’t lead to herd culling.

Irish farmers outraged over 25% emissions reduction plan
Irish farmers outraged over 25% emissions reduction plan

The Irish government had previously been debating what the cut on emissions from the agriculture industry would be, finally settling on a 25% reduction below 2018 levels by 2030.

“Today, the government has agreed on a pathway to a 51% cut in economy-wide emissions by 2030. The emissions ceiling for agriculture has been set at a level requiring a 25% reduction by 2030. This falls within the target range assigned to the sector under the Climate Action Plan 2021. I am pleased to have reached this conclusion as a way of offering certainty to our farm families and their businesses over the next decade,” said Irish Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue in a press release.

Many farmers had been expecting a cap on emissions but said they were preparing for something more moderate. They’re now arguing that culling their herds, which would sabotage their own businesses in the process, will be the only way they can meet the lofty standards of the Irish government.

“The target that we’ve been working towards has been 18%, maybe 22% but not 25%,” said Cork farmer Alan Jagoe. “We’re producing food on our farms. We’re not taking fossil fuels off the ground; we are not mining; we are producing food that we all eat. That has been lost in this debate.”

Jagoe further stated that the policy was totally “unrealistic.”

“We had a pathway and a direction, and I cannot overemphasize enough that the work it would take to get to an 18% target would be absolutely massive,” Jagoe continued. “It’s a fundamental change in the way we farm, the way we apply our fertilizers, the way we apply our slurry. This is a fundamental policy shift to get to 18%, and we were prepared to work towards it, but now we have been given 25%.”

According to the Irish Farmers Journal, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president Pat McCormack is also baffled by the policy. He has stated that de-herding is already happening due to previous environmental regulations and that this will be exacerbated by the new policy, leading to a forced culling of herds and making family businesses less sustainable financially.

Regarding one family farm with 30ha with 84 cows, McCormack stated that the farm would have to cut its livestock population by nearly 25%.

“That reduction of 22 cows effectively wipes out the economic sustainability of this farm and replicated through the neighbouring and similar farms. It undermines the viability of the wider rural community,” McCormack said.

He further condemned the government’s recent decisions, saying they’ve chosen to press forwards without ever consulting farming communities.

Moreover, despite claims from the government that farmers won’t have to cull herds, those in government and associated groups are currently floating the possibility of paying off farmers to do just that to reach their emissions targets.

As with many countries in the West, it appears that the Irish government is willing to recklessly sacrifice farmers on the altar of climate change despite all the obvious consequences.

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