The year 2022 will be used as a reference year in any dairy reduction scheme, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.
Speaking at the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) AGM on Tuesday, he said that were the Department to contemplate any reduction scheme on the dairy side, he “would intend to use 2022 as a reference year against which any reduction would be measured”.
“It is important to provide clarity on that point, to avoid the possibility that any individual might be misled into speculating on the configuration of any possible reduction scheme in the future,” he said.
On the suckler reduction scheme, he said he had already clarified his position in relation to a suckler reduction scheme.
“Farm bodies and the industry have been crystal clear in their opposition to this concept. Therefore, I do not intend to proceed with it,” he said.
He added that the Food Vision 2030 strategy will continue to be the lighthouse for the sector.
The Minister said he would “very much like Ireland to become the first country in the world to genotype all livestock in the country”.
“I believe this will happen and by delivering it, we will continue to show the world that Ireland is more than an outpost on the edge of Europe. We are leaders and pioneers.
"We have a beef sector that is the envy of the world and the starting point in all of this is the farmer who calves the cow, rears the calf, produces the weanling or store and, ultimately, finishes the animal. Genotyping can be a huge help here.
“I am considering how that might be achieved, having regard to the funding that might be made available, the climate impact and a variety of organisational and logistical challenges.
“But we can only do this if we are satisfied that it will lead to a real and measurable reduction in emissions,” he said.
Commenting on the Russian war in Ukraine, he said that Russia has turned tillage fields into battlefields.
“Since then, Ireland has accepted some 70,000 people seeking refuge from war in their country, global supply chains have been rocked, inflation hit decades-high rates and input prices soared, putting pressure on all farms.
“However, the constant in all of this upheaval and uncertainty has been you - the farm families of Ireland - continuing to produce top-class, safe, sustainable and traceable food,” he said.
The illegal war in Ukraine unfortunately continues, he said.
“It remains a haunting situation with the brave men and women of Ukraine defending their freedom and the freedom of the region.
“The weaponising of food by Putin and his despotic regime is truly heinous.
“Along with so many other countries, Ireland is reliant on Ukraine for food as well as feed,” he said.
On CAP, he said that Government is committed to getting schemes under the new CAP in place to be ready to issue payments later this year.
“In agriculture, the focus is on reducing nitrogen and methane emissions, while increasing carbon capture and storage and contributing in a positive way to the decarbonisation of the energy system.
“We need to accelerate progress through reduced application of nitrogen-based fertilisers, replacing them with protected urea and reducing the age of cattle finishing. I recognise that achieving this ambition will not be without its challenges and that significant transformational change will be required.
Farm families of Ireland - I have backed you, I am backing you and I will continue to back you, now and into the futur
“The building blocks are in place already and are providing a solid foundation on which to build and achieve the ambition.
“Diversification opportunities like anaerobic digestion [AD], forestry, organics and tillage will provide options for farmers who wish to consider alternative income sources to livestock farming.
“This consideration of diversification is critical for the future of the sector: we need to improve our feed security, our food security and our energy security,” he said.
Regarding TAMS, he said he will shortly clarify the investment options for farmers under the new scheme.
“Be it AD, solar or forestry, all of these initiatives and developments are easier said than done. They can be and will be part of our farming future, however, they require skill, ingenuity, new knowledge and, crucially, funding.
"But the political will is there and we, as a Government, are absolutely committed to delivering on these ambitions,” he said.
In relation to the agri-food regulator, the Minister said that the Department is working to conclude the process for the appointment to the role of CEO for the new office.
“The Department will also engage with State boards to begin the process for selection of the board of the new office.
“Critically, at least two of the board members will be primary producers,” he said.
The Minister said that while farmers face a decade of change, change need not be something to fear.
“We will continue to be a world-class producer of animal-based proteins for 10, 20 or even 30 years. This will also be backed by our excellent tillage sector.
“Farm families of Ireland - I have backed you, I am backing you and I will continue to back you, now and into the future.”