We need to get to a point where there's a greater level of trust and mutual respect between farmers and environmentalists, chair of the 2030 agri-food strategy Tom Arnold has said.

“This probably has to be done on the basis that there is a clear recognition that the agri-food sector is actually a serious contributor to solving the climate crisis, both in terms of reducing emissions, increasing carbon sequestration and dealing with renewable energy,” Arnold said.

“On the other side of the fence, I think there has to be a recognition that there has to be an equivalence between economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

"We were not asked to produce a strategy which only met the demands of the environment.”

The comments came during a Teagasc signpost series webinar on Friday morning, dealing with the environmental ambition of the new 10-year strategy for farming.

Forward together

Arnold highlighted the need for mutual understanding on the economic role that the livestock sector plays.

“Ireland has a legitimate role as a producer of safe high-quality livestock products.

"The reality is, the world needs high-quality animal source protein and Ireland is in a very good position to produce this in a more sustainable way than many other countries.

“Getting that understanding and reaching a degree of mutual respect and tolerance for each other's opinions I think should be the way we're looking towards the future.

“If that is the case then, then I think we could sign off on a really progressive final version of this strategy and go forward together.”

Environmental pillar

Arnold said that lines of engagement have been retained with the environmental pillar, which exited from strategy talks in February.

“In the first of the national food dialogues, their representative from the pillar who had sat on the committee Karen Ciesielski was on one of the panels which I think was a very welcome development,” Arnold continued.

“Very much the door is open for them to rejoin the process. This agri-food strategy in its final form should achieve a high level of political and societal consensus that would be the best basis for actually getting it implemented.

“The relevance of this is being able to go to the food systems summit in September, which will be represented by the Taoiseach, and being able to point to our national strategy, signed off and committed to being achieved.”