Independent view: Road Maps are a start in bid to hit 2020 targets
On Friday, Teagasc published a series of templates for farmers to follow in their quest to reach the ambitious targets set out by Food Harvest 2020.
The Teagasc sectoral Road Maps point to some major changes in the structure of Irish agriculture, including a 46pc increase in the area of land sown to tillage and a massive jump in perennial energy crops such as willow and miscanthus from just 3,000ha to 70,000ha.
Our suckler herd will continue to decline by 14,000hd a year and the number of beef farms will fall by 100,000 to 90,000 by 2018, Teagasc has predicted.
Pressure from dairy and tillage expansion will be a major factor in the continued suckler decline but for the farmers who remain in the sector, a move towards bull beef and specialist production of high-quality weanlings for export will create a more efficient and higher output beef sector.
The analysis points to a welcome reversal of the declining sheep flock but highlights the need for hill sheep farming to be supported for its environmental benefits rather than its commercial potential.
Environmental issues such as nutrient efficiency, water quality and gaseous emissions will affect all sectors, while the focus in the food sector will be on health-enhancing food products, gut health research, new dairy product development and the infant milk formula sector.
The Road Maps, which cover dairy, suckler beef, pigs, sheep, tillage, forestry, horticulture, food and the environment, summarise the expected changes in the shape and size of each individual sector and the policy issues facing producers in each enterprise.