Farmer organisations, beef sector stakeholders and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all attended the first meeting of the Food Vision beef and sheep group on Thursday morning where an overview of the technologies available to cut beef farming emissions was given.
Farm groups have expressed a willingness to “knuckle down” with stakeholders and work to submit the group’s final report by the November deadline outlined by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.
The Irish Farmers Journal understands that a draft report on reducing beef sector emissions will be expected to be submitted in July before this final report in November.
Thursday's meeting was focused exclusively on emissions reductions in the beef sector, with some farmer representatives expressing concern that the roadmap to emissions reductions outlined would not be sufficient to achieve the higher emissions reduction target of 30%. However, that the lower 22% target could be within reach, they said.
The Irish Farmers Journal was told by some of those in attendance that the prompt announcement by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan of the specific 2030 sectoral emissions target for farming would be essential to the group progressing with its deliberations.
The farmer organisations that attended the stakeholder meeting were:
Some of those present have suggested that the group has twice-monthly meetings scheduled over the summer months.
The Irish Farmers Journal understands that Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture, Meat Industry Ireland (MII), meat processing plants, University College Dublin and the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) also had representatives in attendance.
The Food Vision beef and sheep group was convened by Minister McConalogue to produce a report, complete with policy recommendations, that is to act as the blueprint for Government strategy on achieving long-term sustainability in the drystock sector.
A similar Food Vision dairy group has released its draft recommendations on reaching the same objective in the dairy sector.
The final dairy report is expected “over the course of the summer”, according to Minister McConalogue.
Farm group reaction
IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden told the Irish Farmers Journal that the meeting had been largely uneventful where “nothing was said that had not already been out there”.
“The political decision on the [sectoral emissions target] will have to be given before the group can come up with recommendations,” Golden commented.
“I would expect we’ll all pull together for the farming sector and industry getting an outcome that works for everyone,” he added.
The INHFA stated that it saw the protection of extensive grazing systems, which it says are carbon neutral, as being a priority of its deliberations in the group.
“We would also have concerns on the lack of available peer-reviewed research on organics and extensive hill systems,” commented the hill farmer organisation.
The ICSA highlighted the need to balance economic sustainability with environmental action. It also cited lower drystock farmer incomes as a challenge to implementing costly environmental measures.
“Our point is that we need to get the economics right before we save the world. The CAP strategic plan has done nothing in this regard,” said the drystock group.
“We need to get the beef and sheep sector more supports because the economics is going in the wrong direction.”