Bruton: Farmers need to make 'profound and difficult changes'

Richard Bruton (Tom Honan/PA)
Richard Bruton (Tom Honan/PA)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton has given his strongest indication yet that farmers will be faced with difficult changes under new climate action plans being developed by Government.

Speaking after a Dáil vote which saw Ireland become the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency, he said: "We will have to change how we run our farms.

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"Many farmers have been farming in the same way for decades and it will be difficult for them to make the necessary changes.

"I am very conscious that as well as declaring that this is crucially important and urgent, we are asking people to make profound and difficult changes to the way they live."

Minister Bruton recently received a mandate from Government to begin the preparation of a new All of Government Plan to bring about a step change in our climate ambition over the next decade and beyond.

It comes as the latest information from the EPA shows that ammonia emissions increased by 2pc in 2017, following a 5pc increase in 2016.

Agriculture dominates emissions of ammonia, which arise from the decomposition of animal manures and the application of fertiliser.

This trend in increasing emissions is projected to continue out to 2030.

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Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability said ammonia emissions have breached national limits in 2016 and 2017.

"This has implications for air and water quality," she said.

"The underlying driver for these emissions is the application of more animal manure to soils - mostly as an organic fertiliser - and the increase in the use of inorganic fertilisers.

"Options to increase efficiencies and reduce fertiliser use will need to be implemented at farm level."

The EPA has said measures needed to reduce emissions include the use of low emission landspreading techniques and the use of urea fertiliser products that include urea inhibitors.

Also, it says increases in nutrient use efficiencies at farm level through improvements in soil fertility and soil pH levels should lead to more optimum use of manures and synthetic fertilisers.

The Department of Climate Action requested that the Department of Agriculture prepare a code of practice for reducing ammonia emissions.

A consultation process for this code will start soon.

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