Farming sector will be protected from 'shocks' despite drive to cut emissions
There will be no scaling back the ambitious expansionary targets set out for the agri-food sector in Food Wise 2025, a senior Government minister has stated.
"Agriculture is critical to the Irish economy. We will make sure that it continues to be protected," Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told a farm event.
"Any review of the sector will have to be carefully conducted in conjunction with industry and the farm organisations," .
Minister Flanagan said the government is intent on "protecting the broader agri-food sector from further shocks", given the challenges already coming its way from Brexit.
The Minister was speaking at the IFA's Smart Farming event, on Joe Deverell's farm in Offaly last Friday, where he stood in for Climate Action Minister Denis Naughten.
Last week, Minister Naughten stated that the Government's plan to address climate change is expected to be radically revised in the coming months.
Agriculture accounts for more than 30pc of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Food Wise 2025 envisages a 60pc increase in agricultural production and 85pc increase in exports. This is closely linked to other ambitious targets for the agri-food sector.
Meanwhile, IFA president Joe Healy says farmers are demonstrating their desire and willingness to embrace the sustainability agenda.
"Despite average farm incomes being just over €31,000, we are prepared to continue to invest to safeguard the environmental integrity of our businesses," he told the Smart Farming event.
Mr Healy said that over 200,000 carbon assessments have been carried out through Bord Bia's Origin Green programme, with 90pc of Ireland's beef exports now participating in a carbon footprinting programme and 100pc of milk produce entering a carbon auditing cycle.
In addition, over 40pc of all farmers are participating in the Green Low Carbon Agri Environment Scheme, GLAS.
The actions already taken under this programme include the establishment of 240,000ha of carbon sequestering low-input permanent pasture, fencing of 13,000km of water- courses and the establishment of 360km of arable grass margins.
"Given such progress, there is a strong rationale for the re-opening of GLAS to new entrants," Mr Healy asserted.
However, despite farmers' best endeavours, big challenges remain, according to the IFA leader. "The future sustainable growth of the sector is intrinsically linked to support for farm incomes and policies that encourage investment at farm level," he said.