Reacting to today’s launch of the report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, IFA President Tim Cullinan voiced significant concerns about the potential impact some of the recommendations could have on Irish farming and the rural communities they support.
“This is a comprehensive report which we are just starting to analyse, but on initial reading we have very serious concerns about some of the recommendations and whether they could actually be counter-productive to the overall objective of protecting biodiversity.”
The report recommends the introduction of a new sector-specific levy or charge on agricultural exports as well as on retailers.
“The idea of placing a levy or charge on agricultural exports from our largest indigenous industry is outlandish in my view. It will be counter-productive and also seeks to place the cost burden of dealing with challenges relating to biodiversity squarely on the shoulders of farmers. Any levy or charge that is placed on food production ends up being carried by the farmer. We already have a situation where our horticultural sector is in terminal decline due to how Irish retailers have squeezed margins. These proposed levies will be just another tax on farmers and will do nothing to improve biodiversity,” he said.
The report also includes recommendations on the phasing out of “environmentally harmful subsidies in the agricultural and food sector”.
“The report seems to imply that current State and European funding to agriculture is environmentally harmful. This is simply not the case and it doesn’t take into account the ever-increasing environmental regulations that farmers have to comply with. CAP subsidies protect family farm incomes, support the rural economy and protect rural landscapes. The average farm size in Ireland is fewer than 80 acres; removing agricultural supports would lead to the exit of thousands of farmers from rural Ireland.”
Also included in the report is a recommendation that people are encouraged to consume a more plant-based diet.
“We were very surprised to see the report making dietary recommendations,” the IFA President said.
He concluded, “the Taoiseach has indicated that this report will now be considered by an Oireachtas Committee. IFA will be considering the report fully and will be seeking to engage with our Oireachtas members, which is the country’s most representative citizens’ assembly.”