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Pressure on farmers over environment hits new heights

Agriculture feels heat as Government proposes new restrictions, EPA slams poor farming practices and RTé 'scapegoats' rural Ireland


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

The pressure facing farmers over Climate Action has reached new heights, with proposed new environmental restrictions, the EPA warning that the environment is "effectively subsidising" poor farming practices and RTé criticised for "farmer bashing".

Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed launched a public consultation on the Government's much anticipated 'Ag-Climatise' document, which details how it proposes to cut emissions by 10-15pc over the next decade. A consultation process on the document is now open, with proposed measures including:

  • A target of 60pc low emissions slurry spreading by 2022.
  • Slurry/farmyard manure must be ploughed into arable land within 12 hours by 2022.
  • All new external slurry stores must be covered by 2022 and all external slurry stores constructed within the last five years by 2025.
  • The incorporation of clover (and mixed species) in all grass reseeds by 2022.
  • Prohibit the use of urea (replacing with protected urea), in particular on grassland by 2025.
  • 50pc of arable spring production must be cover crops.
  • A target 40,000ha of peat-based agricultural soils for reduced management intensity.

Meanwhile, a new EPA submission to the Department of Agriculture, seen by the Farming Independent, is heavily critical of farming practices in some areas.

In its hardest-hitting comments to date on farming, EPA director Dr Matt Crowe points the finger at dairy expansion.

"Currently, the principal model for generating sustainable incomes for farmers is intensification, which has been driving the expansion of the dairy herd," he says.

"This expansion is leading to a lack of diversity and resilience in the agri-food sector and the environmental assets on which it is based.

"Consideration needs to be given to whether land is suitable for intensification, and if not what other farming systems are available to support sustainable incomes.

"The environment is effectively subsidising poor farming practices in some areas."

The EPA also challenges many of the current actions set out for farmers' environmental challenges. It says many are based on driving efficiencies on farms, with an inherent assumption that if farms are efficient they will be environmentally sustainable - which it says is not the case.

"Efficiency must be a mandatory baseline so that best use of resources is made. Every catchment has a nutrient limit, and inefficient nutrient management practices use up the available headroom, which takes from other farmers and the environment."

Dr Crowe also warns that additional measures are required in some areas.

Elsewhere, RTé has been accused of scapegoating farmers in its week-long series of environmental programmes. IFA president Joe Healy demanded that the state broadcaster clarify the qualifications of Dr Marco Springmann, introduced as a 'diet expert', who claimed "dairy is not a food that gives you any health benefit".

IFA said it has been unable to find any reference to a dietary or nutrition qualification on Dr Springmann's profile.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice believes RTé's climate change coverage is unfairly singling out rural Ireland for criticism and unrealistic measures to combat climate change.

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