The director general of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Laura Burke, has called for transformation in agriculture in Ireland. Burke warned that if the sector continues to operate as it currently does, it will fail to meet its environmental targets. Speaking as part of Agriland’s On the Record series, Burke said that the “increase in production” had had an impact on the environment, not just in Ireland but across Europe and beyond. She asked: “What is agriculture going to look like in the future so that it’s still thriving, still productive but it is not having this disproportionate impact on the environment; the sector needs to transform and we can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result.”
Burke acknowledged that change was “concerning and frightening” for farmers and that they required “support and guidance and the right incentives” to help them adapt. She suggested that a combination of policies and a focus on results-based payments could help to diversify farms and create new income streams. Burke also emphasised the importance of Ireland’s “clean green image” and called for measures to protect and enhance it.
Burke warned that the increase in dairy cow numbers was unsustainable and was driving up greenhouse gas emissions. She said that the EPA would produce an interim report on water quality this year, which would be used by the European Commission to assess Ireland’s Nitrates Action Plan. Burke argued that the fourth plan had failed to improve water quality. However, she insisted that there was “common ground” between the EPA and farmers and that there was an opportunity for the two groups to work together.