How can Irish farmers and dairy co-operatives turn challenge into opportunity?
Dairy industry leaders, experts, and stakeholders will gather at University College Cork (UCC) for an essential two-day conference, titled The Sustainability Event on 4th and 5th December next. This important gathering aims to discuss and demonstrate a sustainable, profitable path for Ireland’s dairy industry amid pressing environmental, economic, and regulatory challenges.
Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Simon Coveney TD will open the two-day event, also to be addressed by senior level figures at the forefront of Ireland’s agrifood sustainability agenda (see further details below).
The conference is jointly organised by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), University College Cork (UCC Food Industry Training Unit), ICOS Skillnet and The Plunkett Institute and takes place in the Aula Maxima (Great Hall) at UCC.
Edward Carr, president of ICOS, emphasised the important timing and nature of this event.
“The Sustainability Event is an important opportunity for reflection and foresight for our industry. In Ireland, we are uniquely positioned to lead the global dairy sector towards a sustainable future. This conference is our platform to identify and showcase how sustainability can be an engine of growth and resilience for our dairy co-ops.”
Professor Paul McSweeney, Vice President for Learning and Teaching in UCC “Irish dairy farmers and their co-operatives are at the forefront of implementing sustainable practices, ensuring that Irish agriculture contributes to addressing the global challenge of climate change. The economic contribution of the dairy sector is profound, creating annual value in the order of €17bn, including exports in excess of €6.5bn, extending its benefits to rural communities and consumers across Ireland and contributing to national and international food security. We must ensure that this continues on a sustainable basis for the future and I very much welcome this timely event to address these opportunities.”
The Sustainability Event will explore the main pillars underpinning the dairy industry’s current and future sustainability strategies.
Climate change and biodiversity: This theme will delve into the intricate relationship between dairy farming, biodiversity and climate change, exploring practices that enhance overall balance.
Sustainability as a dual imperative and opportunity: The conference will highlight how sustainability is not just a obligation as a social license to operate, but also a business imperative, potentially unlocking new opportunities for competitiveness.
Sustainability across the supply chain: Discussions will focus on the integration of sustainability at every stage of the supply chain, from farm to table, ensuring a complete and circular approach to environmental responsibility.
Sustainability reporting: The conference will examine how transparent and robust sustainability reporting will be an essential tool for accountability and continuous improvement within the industry.
The future of Ireland’s nitrates derogation: In light of evolving regulations, continuing initiatives are required to balance productivity with environmental stewardship, particularly in managing nitrates and emissions.
The Sustainability Event promises to be an important moment for Ireland’s dairy sector, setting the scene for sustainability in dairy food production for current and future generations to build on. The conference provides an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to share insights charting a sustainable course for the Irish dairy industry. It also reaffirms the commitment of farming communities and their co-operatives to reducing carbon emissions, leading on climate action, and ensuring the long-term viability and success of the dairy and agrifood industry.
Speaker List for the Sustainability Event
- Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment
- Billy Kelleher, Member of the European Parliament
- Bill Callanan, Chief Inspector, DAFM
- Gerry Boyle, Chair of the Food Vision Dairy Group
- Dr. John Roche, Chief Science Advisor, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand
- Laurence Shalloo, Head of Animal & Grassland Research Innovation, Teagasc
- Mary Gurrie, Programme Manager for Water Quality, Environmental Protection Agency
- Eddie Burgess, Teagasc Agricultural Catchments Programme
- Catherine Keena, Teagasc Biodiversity Expert
- Gary Lanigan, Lead author of the Teagasc MACC (marginal Abatement Cost Curve)
- Dave Fitzgerald, Sustainability Director, Ornua
- Brian Ó Gallachóir, MaREI Director & UCC Environmental Research Institute (ERI) Director.
ICOS (the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €16 billion, with some 175,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas. In total, there are some 1,000 co-ops in Ireland, and the largest 100 organisations employ approximately 40,000 people.
ICOS Skillnet is funded by Skillnet Ireland and Irish co-operative member companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
University College Cork, a globally recognised university, is at the forefront of research in food science, environmental policy, and sustainability. The UCC Food Industry Training Unit located in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences in the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science is Ireland’s first and leading training provider for professional development in the food, agri-food and seafood sectors. At the core of its ethos is the ambition to support the agri-food sector, nationally and internationally, through excellence in training and development. FITU’s programmes have been recognised with national awards for training and development and are included in national policy.
The Plunkett Institute for Co-operative Governance is dedicated to the establishment and promotion of best practice in co-operative governance in Ireland. The Institute’s principal focus is on the elected members of boards of ICOS affiliated co-operatives, and board officers, acting as an expert body for the governance of co-operative organisations.
22 Feb 2024
22 Feb 2024
22 Feb 2024