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After all the hype leading up to April 1st and the removal of quotas, we now have to get on with the business and build a dairy industry based on resilience and sustainability.

It was understandable that there was huge interest around the first quota free day, and it was right that the occasion was used to highlight the benefits of the dairy sector to the Irish rural economy.  Now however, the media spotlight has moved on, and the industry, from farmers, to co-ops, to service providers need to focus on building a strong, resilient, sustainable industry for the several thousand businesses and families dependent on it.

One of the greatest challenges the industry faces will be in providing for necessary expansion, against the backdrop of a requirement to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Ireland is currently committed to reducing our emissions to 20% below 2015 levels by 2020.  On the basis of current data, our level of agricultural emissions are expected to rise to about 20.4 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020, about 5 million tonnes greater than our EU target.  The Minister and the Government have already secured a massive boost for our position, by obtaining Europe Council support (in October 2014) for the inclusion of carbon sequestered in permanent pasture and in forestry in the calculation of emissions for the agriculture sector.  This policy change could significantly reduce our potential exposure to fines. In addition, the Council acknowledged the need to encourage sustainable intensification of food production.  Ireland is amongst the world’s lowest emission milk and beef producers, and Europe now recognises to logic of encouraging food production in low emission systems like ours.

None-the-less, we still face challenges in reaching our emissions targets.  The 20% reduction target could be doubled if there is a global deal in Paris later this year, and changes in methods of calculating emissions will only achieve so much.  The huge step forward which was achieved in establishing the Bord Bia Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme, with associated carbon navigator and measures to increase efficiency, must be built upon, and we must demonstrate world leadership in measuring and reducing emissions from our farming systems.

EU Climate Action