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Environment & Rural Affairs

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has called on all local authorities to develop plans to address the annual increase in littering of the countryside that takes place post-Christmas, as people recklessly dump cans, bottles, used wrapping paper and even the left overs of Christmas dinners.

Thomas Cooney said, “Recent reports indicate that packaging waste generated from online shopping will increase by 33% this year to 10,000 tonnes. The fact is that this will lead to increased dumping by passing motorists who have no regard for our rural countryside. And it’s time to get tough with these people.”

IFA is calling for more severe sanctions on serial dumpers and changes to the legislation so that farmers are no longer held legally responsible for reckless dumping by others.

Thomas Cooney said, “The on the spot fines for littering introduced this year have not worked. We need increased enforcement action by local authorities, as well as tougher sentences and penalties for large scale serial dumpers.

In a recent meeting with Environment Minister for State Seán Canney T.D., IFA also called for changes to existing litter legislation, by removing the current threat of fines and prosecution of famers on whose land others irresponsibly dump their litter.

Addressing today’s (Wed) meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, IFA President Joe Healy has called on the Committee to support the full implementation of the Teagasc climate roadmap for the sector & Ireland’s carbon efficient model of food production.

IFA President Joe Healy said, “Ireland has a carbon efficient model of food production, with the European Commission confirming that Ireland’s dairy farmers have the lowest carbon footprint for milk and our beef farmers are amongst the five most carbon efficient in the EU. This has been a key contributor to the growth of Ireland’s agri-food sector, with exports of €13.5bn in 2017, employing over 300,000 directly and indirectly.”

The Common Agriculture Programme is very much climate focused, with 87% of the measures in Ireland’s Rural Development programme having environmental measures.

This is supported by the fact that there are over 200,000 carbon assessments completed on farms as part of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme.

He added, “There is increasing global demand for the high-quality food types that Irish farmers produce efficiently. It’s important that this sustainable production is not restricted, as it would lead to increased international climate emissions. This would happen because regions like the Brazilian Amazon in South America would be deforested to meet this growing demand. This is a real possibility with the new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro already promising to take Brazil out of the Paris Agreement.”

“The Teagasc climate roadmap published in June this year, represents a clear strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the sector. However, it requires whole of Government support. I have written to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and sought his climate leadership in co-ordinating the coming together the key Government Departments and state agencies to fully deliver this climate roadmap.”

Thomas Cooney said, “Agriculture deserves to have a fairer representation of its climate actions. For example, why are the carbon sinks from Ireland’s permanent pastures, hedgerows and forestry excluded when it comes to climate change and agriculture?
Agriculture has many roles, as food, fuel and energy producers, with low climate mitigation potential. This is recognised at EU and UN level. However previous hearings of this Committee have heard the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council acknowledge the complexity of addressing agriculture and climate and the Chair of the Citizens’ Assembly recognises that insufficient time was given to considering this.”

Concluding Thomas Cooney said, “Farmers are engaged in climate action. From a carbon efficiency perspective, we are best in class. We seek logical proposals from the Oireachtas Climate Committee, which takes full account of the potential economic and social impact on farm families and the wider rural economy.”

IFA President Joe Healy said the change in emissions attributed to agriculture was not unexpected, due to the increased market demand coinciding with the ending of the milk quota regime in 2015, which had been in place since 1984.

He said, “Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer of milk in the European Union and our beef farmers are in the top five. This is important at a time of increasing demand for dairy and beef. If agri-food production is limited in Ireland, it will happen elsewhere and contribute to increased international greenhouse gasses.”

“We have a natural advantage in food production due to our grass-based production system. At present no credit is given in the climate data to the contribution that our permanent pasture and hedgerows make to carbon sequestration. This is not giving a fair picture of the overall positive contribution of agriculture,” he said.

“Our farmers have been frustrated for years due to milk quotas and we need to evaluate the increased emissions in the context of the economic and social sustainability of rural Ireland,” he said.

“Teagasc has set out a climate roadmap with 27 measures we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include the delivery of the huge potential for the production of farm-scale renewable energy and the Government needs to incentivise this,” he said.

Joe Healy concluded by restating his call on An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar to demonstrate the necessary climate leadership required by coordinating the coming together of the necessary government departments and state agencies to deliver the full climate abatement potential of the Teagasc climate report.

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has acknowledged the important role that farming plays in protecting and enhancing Ireland’s environment. Responding to today’s water quality report, he supports previous comments by the EPA, which recognises that the failure to treat waste water properly continues to damage our rivers and costal waters.

Thomas Cooney said, “Raw sewage from the equivalent of 88,000 people in 38 towns and villages is still flowing into our rivers and streams across the country. Unlike diffuse pollution which is sometimes attributed to agriculture, this point source pollution from ineffective wastewater treatment plants is known, identifiable and can be resolved. Addressing this would greatly assist our compliance with water regulations and improve water quality.”

Regarding agriculture, Thomas Cooney has welcomed the recently established water quality advisory service operated by Teagasc, with Government and dairy co-op support. “Everyone has a role to play when it comes to protecting and enhancing our natural resources. This innovative advisory service has the potential to collaboratively work with the farming community and address water quality challenges, while creating wider community awareness of the value of good water quality.”

Concluding he said, “Overall water quality in Ireland is good by European standards and farmers, supported by Government policy, have played their part in delivering on this. Farm schemes such as the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) is focused on improving water quality. Almost 50% of the measures in this programme are aimed at improving water quality and over 40% of farmers are in GLAS. Farmers have also invested over €2bn bringing farmyards to the highest environmental standards.”

IFA has called on Government to take the following steps in support of farming’s contribution to climate action:

  1. Establish a cross-sectoral implementation group, including IFA, to mobilise Government Departments and the State’s advisory, scientific and economic development agencies to maximise the delivery of the emissions reductions identified by Teagasc in their recent climate abatement report.
  2. Work with EU leaders to introduce a carbon tariff on all less climate efficient imports into the EU from South America and other regions to incentivise carbon efficient food production.
  3. Appoint an independent Retail Regulator to ensure farmers get a fairer share of the food supply chain, allowing them to continue to reinvest to further climate proof their farm businesses.
  4. Regarding the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions:
    1. Re-examine the climate metrics applied when calculating methane, given the short-lived behaviour of methane in the atmosphere.
    2. C02 emission reductions through natural carbon sinks, such as forests and permanent pastures, should be included in the overall measurement of the contribution of emissions from the sector.
  5. On community and farm-scale renewables:
    1. The introduction of a guaranteed feed-in tariff model.
    2. Increased grid access, at node and substation level.
    3. Crowdfunding legislation and platforms.
    4. The development of regional biomass trade and logistic centres.

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney said, “This detailed submission to Government restates IFA’s opposition to further carbon taxes on the sector, which are directly impacting on farming’s competitiveness without reducing climate emissions. The submission also highlights the multiple and sometimes competing roles that farmers have as food, fuel and energy producers, while at the same time being required to enhance the environment and the low climate mitigating potential of the sector.”

Concluding he said, “Farmers in Ireland have a proud record as carbon efficient food producers. We can and will do more, particularly in the resource efficiency and renewables areas. However, this depends on strong Government support and a fully funded CAP to meet the increased environmental and climate requirements.”

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