National Council

Farmers Are the Unsung Heroes of Climate Action, New IFA President Tells AGM

In his inauguration speech today at the 69th AGM of the Irish Farmers Association supported by FBD, IFA President Francie Gorman said Irish farmers are the unsung heroes of climate action and biodiversity.

“Irish farmers have made huge changes to reduce emissions and improve biodiversity,” he said.

“However, the extreme words and actions of a small but vocal minority risk turning farmers off. Most farmers and most environmentalists agree that our grass-based family farm structure needs to be defended and supported. It is the extremes – on both sides – that are polarising the debate,” he said.

“As farmers, we should be proud of what we do. We are amongst the most sustainable producers of food in the world and we are going to continue to produce food in an environmentally sustainable way,” he said.

“However, it is very frustrating that the Minister for Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture have not lived up to their side of the bargain. The delay in payments through the ACRES scheme and the TAMS scheme to support farmers in such initiatives as building more nutrient storage and erecting solar panels is an abject failure by the Minister and his officials,” he said.

“Farmers faith in the Department of agriculture to design and operate schemes has been shattered,” he said.

“I believe farmers are willing to do even more if a more ambitious environment scheme was put in place, such as an inclusive ‘farmer-friendly’ scheme that would pay up to €15,000 per farmer. With the Climate and Nature fund announced in last year’s budget, I believe this can be achieved,” he said.

“The Government needs to work with farmers. We cannot have a repeat of the recent Nitrates debacle. The Government must commit to fighting for our derogation and to include farmers fully in that process,” he said.

There are many other issues which are frustrating farmers, including the recent changes in the ICBF beef indices.

“I want to sit down with the ICBF, as a matter of urgency, to find a solution on this issue. The Minister must also play his part by showing flexibility in the SCEP scheme,” he said.

In my Presidency, my first option will always be to negotiate, but if that doesn’t work then all other options will be considered.

“Farmers feel under siege at present and we cannot allow that to continue. The Government must recognise the frustration that is out there and start to address it. Otherwise, we risk losing farmers and a generation of much-needed new entrants,” he said.

Read Francie Gorman’s Inauguration Speech in full here.