Theoretical Tax Proposals Need to Be Challenged

IFA President Joe Healy has said that suggestions put forward by retired Trinity Professor Alan Matthews to consider increased carbon taxes on farming are impractical and would be unlikely to make any real environmental difference. Alan Matthews was speaking at Saturday’s session of the Citizens Assembly.

Mr. Healy also took issue with Alan Matthews’ suggestion that suckler cow numbers in Ireland should be reduced.

Joe Healy said, “The carbon tax was introduced in 2010, and since 2011 overall national greenhouse gas emissions have actually increased by 4%. There is no evidence that Alan Matthews’ suggestion to expand this tax further by imposing a second carbon tax on agriculture would have any positive environmental effect in practice”.

On livestock, he said, “Our suckler cow sector plays a vital role in the sustainability of so many rural communities and businesses across the country. Prof. Matthews made much of the current poor farmer returns from suckler farming as an apparent rationale for reducing numbers. We need to improve returns for suckler farmers not obliterate them, particularly for farmers in rural areas that are dependent on this enterprise for their livelihoods. Suckler farming is welfare friendly and also contributes to maintaining Ireland’s green image.

“IFA and farmers are conscious of the need to play our part in addressing climate change but a second carbon tax would be the wrong approach. Agriculture already has significant initiatives in place and agricultural emissions have fallen by 6% since 1990 while our output has increased by over 40%. However, Transport’s greenhouse gas emissions are now out of control, having increased by 130% over the same period.”

One of the initiatives in place is the IFA led Smart Farming, run in conjunction with the EPA. Smart Farming participant and Longford dairy farmer Andrew McHugh also presented at the Citizens’ Assembly yesterday.

Joe Healy said that Smart Farming will be scaled up in 2018 and it will continue to focus on demonstrating the win-wins of improving farm incomes, enhancing the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, farmers’ on-going participation in carbon monitoring, measuring and management will continue through participation in programmes such as Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme and the Department of Agriculture’s Beef Data and Genomics Programme and Green Low Carbon Agriculture Scheme.

Concluding Joe Healy said, ““Farmers will continue to build on our sustainable model of food production, currently being the most carbon efficient milk producers and the fifth most efficient beef producers in Europe. We will continue to seek to make improvements in carbon efficiency across the food supply chain. For example, to-date over 137,000 carbon audits have been completed by Bord Bia as part of their Origin Green programme, 90% of beef exports are now in an audit and carbon foot printing programme and 100% of milk production is entering into a carbon auditing cycle. However, we cannot accept further unjustifiable carbon taxes or attacks on the national suckler herd”.

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