Recent claims by An Taisce that dairy industry expansion in Ireland is ‘the pursuit of short-term profit at the cost of any long-term vision for a sustainable future for Irish farming and a safer future for all Irish citizens’ are disappointing.
They simply gloss over both the realities of our grass based system of production in Ireland, and the Trojan work being taken at all levels of what is largely a farmer owned co-operative led industry.
Firstly, let’s lay out some facts here.
- Ireland is officially recoded by the neutral Joint Research Centre of the European Union as having the lowest levels of GHG -Green House Gas- per litre of milk produced in the EU. (See Graph above.)
- We have initiated a comprehensive and unprecedented national sustainability programme in the form of Origin Green to further reduce this figure, and inform all stakeholders in the chain of their responsibility to do so. We are the only country in the world that has rolled out such a programme.
- Individual Co-ops have further augmented this scheme with their own programmes to push the sustainability agenda to the heart of our production.
- 30 years of quota regime policy have artificially held back the development of our industry. For example New Zealand have quadrupled their dairy industry in that time, and yes, we want to expand ours, but wish to do so as sustainably as possible.
- We have few natural competitive advantages as a country, but low GHG grass growth farming systems is one, and it is the envy of many peer advanced dairy economies.
- The simple reality is that with the growth in dairy demand and world populations world-wide, the dairy will have to be produced anyway. Does An Taisce seriously suggest that they would prefer to see that dairy be produced in countries with multiples of the GHG emissions per KG produced of Ireland’s industry?
- Does An Taisce want the potential to bring vital new jobs to rural areas to be eroded? The retention of wealth in farmer owned co-operative business? Where is the ‘sustainable future’ in that?
Most of the agricultural research to date indicates that there is little or no conflict between good farming and care for the environment, and this is a key principle of our plans to develop our industry.
Creating a ‘them and us’ division between farmers, their industry and the environmental lobby is short sighted and dangerous. Farmers know that without protecting their land and their animals that they have no future, and the vast majority go to great lengths to improve for the next generation.
We as an industry are fully cognisant of our rule to combat climate change, we are actively working hard on it and we can and will do better.
There is no problem whatsoever about being held to account by organizations regarding our efforts, but the least we want are the whole facts to be presented.
A calculation of GHG reduction cannot be blunt one size fits all assessments as they do not take into account the true story, reality is much more nuanced and regulators know this.
Our case must be based on the need for more food production globally, and emissions per unit of production should be part of the criterion for negotiations.
Carbon sequestration and the risk of carbon leakage issues have to be factored in, and these have been recognised by the European intuitions in our targets.
Agriculture is a key national industry for us, and is seen as an engine for our economy.
The an Taisce solution is a reduction in cattle numbers. But this is not practical, and if animals are reduced in this country, the deficit will be made up in other countries, which will simply result in a lot more greenhouse gases. Where is the logic here?
We fully appreciate in ICOS that there are changes that can be made to our agricultural practices which can significantly reduce greenhouse gases without unduly affecting farm profitability, and we are encouraging the implementation of same
We wish to show co-op members that emission-reducing practices increase profitability.
Expansion in Irish agriculture, especially in dairying, must not be hindered by regulation for the sake of regulation.
We cannot afford to destroy our present generation of farmers and their Co-operative businesses with actions that will undermine the sustainability of their industry and the rural economy as a whole.
21 Nov 2023