'Increasing farm output is the right thing to do for Ireland'
A TROUBLESOME issue for the agri-industry at the moment is the apparent contradiction between the increase in cow numbers targeted in the Food Harvest 2020 targets and Ireland's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Agriculture already accounts for a third of all of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions, and much of this is driven by the amount of methane and nitrous oxides that our cattle herds emit through their digestion of grass and silage.
To increase milk and meat production by 50pc and 40pc respectively by 2020, experts predict that the national dairy herd will need to increase by approximately 300,000 cows.
Simultaneously, Ireland faces multi-million euro fines if it fails to abide by a commitment undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a further 4pc of 2012's amount.
2012 was the first year in almost a decade that emissions rose again, leading many environmentalists to believe that increasing pressures from a rebounding economy and a surging agricultural sector will leave it impossible for Ireland to meet its Kyoto commitments.
"The reality is that if we don't increase our milk output somebody else will, and they will almost certainly have higher emissions per litre of milk produced. This is because Ireland has the joint lowest carbon footprint per litre of any country in the EU," Cotter said.
With 80pc of Ireland under pasture, compared to just 40pc across the rest of the EU, it's easy to see how Ireland should rank high in sustainability. But the other country that is joint lowest with Ireland is Austria, begging the question: why?