'Live exports a blight on the country'

Pippa Hackett on the family farm in Geashill, Co Offaly
Pippa Hackett on the family farm in Geashill, Co Offaly

A red line for the Green Party is that Ireland should undertake no further lobbying to attain any manner of exemptions for agriculture sector on emissions, writes Ciaran Moran.

According to the party's agriculture spokesperson Pippa Hackett, agriculture is already getting special treatment, and every sector has a role to play.

"Sitting on the side saying 'that's not fair and transport aren't doing enough' is not feasible anymore," she said.

She also condemned the Government and policymakers, who she accused of doing their level best to maintain the status quo.

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"Their view seems to be 'let's just keep chipping away around the edges on climate action'. That's just not going to work," she said.

"It's all grand having markets for beef in China but if it's only paying €3.40/kg that's not helping anyone aside from processors. We have to put the farmer at the centre of this. It has been industry-led for the last two decades and that's the problem," she said.

Mixed, diverse forestry

The Green Party wants a fundamental change in policy away from the current 30-year cycle to a permanent woodland approach, which it says would provide greater and more diverse social, environmental and economic benefits.

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It also wants to move away from fast-growing species such as Sitka spruce on 'marginal land' towards mixed, diverse forestry, with a wider range of forest types (short rotation, longer rotations, agroforestry, semi-wild).

Furthermore, the Green Party wants to rebalance the premiums and payments made for planting and thinning to support this strategic change.

Hackett (below) said something needs to change on forestry as afforestation is grinding to a halt anyway despite all the incentives. She conceded that there was significant opposition to forestry among farmers and said the Green Party supported a policy which would see every farmers plant 1ha of forestry.

Referring to the dairy sector, she said that for certain sectors of the farming community, forestry is going to be part and parcel of what they do and suggested linking herd size to the levels of planting.

end Live exports

The Green Party wants an end to live exports outside the EU immediately.

"The argument you hear is that it is there to stabilise the market and it puts a floor on it, but last year we exported more cattle than ever - and look where the price is. It's a blight on the country as a whole," Hackett said.

Live calf exports are seen as critical by many in the dairy sector, but Hackett said the Green Party would be looking for the trade to be phased out.

"There is a big huge bubble of controversy surrounding it anyway. It's not doing us any favours," she said.

"Dairy farmers are responsible for their slurry; they should be responsible for their calves."

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