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'They can't go green if they're in the red': Farmers won't become climate-friendly if subsidies are cut, warns IFA

The comments come on the same day Fine Gael launched its agriculture plans ahead of the upcoming election.

Joe Healy, outgoing president of the IFA.
Joe Healy, outgoing president of the IFA.

THE IRISH FARMERS’ Association has warned that farmers will not be able to transition to environmentally friendly models if proposed funding cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were to proceed. 

Members of the farming community and experts in the area of climate action spoke at a conference event today of the impact climate change is having and measures that can be adapted by farmers to reduce emissions.

However, IFA president Joe Healy opened the conference saying: “Farmers cannot be expected to do more with less, or be green if they are in the red.”

He said: “When I addressed the IFA climate action event at the AGM last year, I said that addressing the climate change is not optional. However the approach is.

“The truth is farming, unlike transport for example, has broadly decoupled the like-for-like growth in economic and climate impact.”

Healy referred to proposed cuts and limitations to EU funding under the Common Agricultural Policy, which provides subsidies and supports to farmers across Europe, including Ireland.

He said farmers were prepared to avail of green initiatives but said existing payments available to them must not be rolled back.

“A milestone was passed with over 250,000 carbon assessments now completed on Irish farms as part of An Bord Bia’s origin green programme.

“Think about this, it’s almost two assessments per farm because there are only 130,000 family farms in the country. No other sector of society has shown this level of commitment.

“Farmers in the agricultural food sector generally are tired of being scapegoated and pilloried on climate change and the climate challenge.”

Election promises

Earlier this morning Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, along with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, launched Fine Gael’s plans for the agriculture sector ahead of the upcoming election.

Those plans include establishing a new regulator to police unfair trading practices, negotiating a fair outcome for any changes to the CAP budget, along with continuing to implement the beef sector agreement.

Last September, following weeks of protests at meat processing factories across the country, farmers and industry reps agreed on the beef sector agreement, which led to the establishment of the beef task force.

The task force has met twice in the past two months, before the Dáil was dissolved this month ahead of the 8 February polling day.

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Farmers from the Independent Farmers Group last week arrived on tractors for the second time since November in a protest over the price of beef, and the impact of measures such as the carbon tax on their farms.

Speaking to members of the IFA this afternoon, Professor John Fitzgerald, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council said a carbon tax is unavoidable.

“Ireland remains off course, even if we, or the world, took radical action tomorrow. We should have begun 30 years ago when it was clear there was a problem but we didn’t,” he said.

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