Our Government, in a move not dissimilar to the Cromwellian land grabs, has decided to literally rob farmers of the carbon credits generated by their farms
The heavy rain two weeks ago may have raised hopes of improved growing conditions, however these hopes were quickly dashed with the arrival of our most recent heatwave. The situation for me is that my grass supply remains “tight”.
On a more positive note, it was great to get my second-cut silage done in sunny weather. My decision to rely solely on slurry for fertiliser was certainly a gamble but it appeared to have paid off. The outcome being that I now have sufficient silage to get my cattle over the winter.
In relation to the proposed 25pc cut in emissions from agriculture, it appears that in an effort to appease many of its more petulant members, our Government, in a move not dissimilar to the Cromwellian land grabs, has decided to literally rob farmers of the carbon credits generated by their farms.
For instance photosynthesis, which we learned in school, is a process where grassland and hedgerows absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight and then emit oxygen. But who owns vast amounts of Ireland’s grasslands and hedgerows?
Research shows that carbon sequestration rates in mineral grassland soils typically range from 1.5 to 4 tonnes CO2 per hectare per year — again, most of Irish grasslands belong to farmers.
So what is our Government up to? Well, they’ve come up with a singularly unique one-column ‘environmental balance sheet’ which they claim displays a farm’s carbon footprint.
While this balance sheet obviously contains the amount of greenhouse gas generated on a farm, for reasons best known to our Government it completely ignores the huge quantity of carbon being absorbed through carbon sequestration and photosynthesis on our farms.
We all know that emissions levels must be reduced, but we also know that no one likes being cheated and farmers are no exception. So unless the real ‘net’ figure for a farm’s carbon emissions is shown on our environmental balance sheet, I believe that little progress can be made in achieving our emission targets.
This unique ‘grab’ of our carbon credits has already led organisations such as the Carbon Removal Action Group (CRAG), based in Co Limerick, to intensify their struggle to increase public awareness of the massive amount of greenhouse gases which are being sequestered on Irish farms each day.
There are also growing concerns regarding what happens to these carbon credits. Who decides who they are gifted to? And what happens if they are not fully utilised?
In the meantime, rural Ireland is not being found wanting. Recently, while attending the North Tipperary Agricultural Show in Nenagh, I came across a local organisation called Hedgerows Ireland, an independent body deeply aware of the importance of hedgerows to biodiversity in Ireland.
Their enlightened stance on the hedgerow issue is certainly supported by preliminary estimates from an EPA Climate Change Research Programme 2007-2013, which suggest that hedgerow and non-forest woodlands could potentially sequester 0.66–3.3 t CO2/ha/year. A very impressive figure, most people will agree.
As well as helping to increase biodiversity, common sense tells us how important trees and hedgerows are for sheltering livestock, not just during bad weather but also during warm sunny spells.
Unfortunately, as we all know, common sense isn’t that common. In spite of the massive support shown by farmers for the GLAS hedgerow planting scheme, apparently for budgetary reasons the scheme was suddenly withdrawn after just two years. It appears that the ‘fine words’ relating to carbon sequestration we hear coming from our politicians come only at a price.
This reminds me of something which notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is reputed to have once said: “Everyone has a price, the important thing is to find out what it is.”
It appears that we have just found out the price which our self-righteous politicians and the EU are willing to pay for proven projects which support and encourage biodiversity in the Irish countryside.
John Heney farms in Kilfeackle, Co Tipperary