IFA ready to get tough with government on climate action, says spokesperson

IFA warns of potential clash with government over new climate and biodiversity measures

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has declared that it will take a harder line with the coalition government on climate and biodiversity if new measures are introduced that undermine the economic and social sustainability of rural Ireland. Tim Cullinan, president of the IFA, said farmers will work to reduce emissions and meet the challenge of climate action but there must be a “balance between climate action and food production”.

The IFA president told Agriland: “We want to ensure we keep as many farmers farming as possible because by doing that you also protect the local rural economy. You keep more people living in rural Ireland because there is a trickle-down effect, the income from farmers helps to sustain rural towns and villages and that is critically important to us,” Cullinan stressed that anything that impacts on incomes or livelihoods or the rural community could result in the IFA taking a “harder line” with government.

He said there needs to be a clear political acknowledgement that farming sustains the social and economic fabric of every town and village in Ireland. “We know how important foreign direct investment (FDI) is and we support that but the profits from those FDI companies are more often than not repatriated back to another country. But farmers here are supporting their local economy – an investment by farmers is also an investment in their town or village,” Cullinan said.

The IFA published a new climate action declaration today (Tuesday, April 18) which sets out the organisation’s position on climate and environmental issues. The farming organisation also presented the declaration to TDs and senators today. According to Cullinan, the six principles set out in its new “Thomond Park Declaration” should “underpin government policy when it comes to climate action.

The principles include:

• Balancing Climate Action & Food Production;
• Environmental, Social & Economic Sustainability;
• Accurate Calculation of Emissions & Removals;
• The Risk of Carbon Leakage;
• Land Use Change Issues; and
• New Funding.

According to the IFA, environmental measures undertaken by farmers have resulted in increased costs at farm level. It is calling for “higher prices” for farmers to cover the increased costs of food production. The IFA also believes that emissions from food production “must be treated differently” than other emissions and that Ireland should have a new focus on the “sustainable development” of the farming and food sector to ensure an adequate supply of food.

The IFA wants to see a balance between environmental, economic and social sustainability. It is calling for “rigorous assessments” of all European Union and national policy proposals to understand their impact on farm viability, the rural economy and the social viability of rural areas. The IFA said it “cannot support policies” that negatively impact the livelihood of farm families and the economic and social sustainability of rural Ireland.

The farming organisation has called for an “accurate measurement” of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon removals at farm level. It said it is imperative that any measurement of emissions and removals is based on research that reflects Irish conditions. In particular, the IFA said that on-farm sequestration and biogenic methane from livestock, along with emissions and removals peat soils, must be based on “peer-reviewed trials in Ireland”. It also said that any on-farm measures such as rooftop solar should count towards reducing emissions from the agri-sector.

According to the IFA, independent, peer-reviewed assessments of the potential for ‘carbon leakage’ from climate policies must be carried out. The farming organisation has stressed that any policy measures around land use change including the forestry programme, biodiversity proposals and rewetting must all be agreed with farmers and “full compensation” must be provided if there is any reduction in farming activity or land values.

It has also called for new funding supports to be put in place not just for farmers but the wider agricultural sector to help achieve environmental objectives. The IFA said this must include renewable energy as well as research funding to “maximise the potential” for technology-based solutions to help agriculture reduce emissions, protect water quality and enhance biodiversity.

One key aspect that the IFA has also outlined in the Thomond Park Declaration is that the Common Agricultural Policy was primarily introduced to support food production. “Continuing to raid and repurpose it for environmental measures will not work. “There must be new funding for taking on optional environment measures, land-use changes and renewable energy initiatives. This must go to farmers, not investment funds,” the farm organisation stated.

The IFA has estimated that the current level of funding from CAP is 20% lower in real terms compared to previous years.

Categories: Agriculture