Eco-friendly payments for farms key to climate action


Shamim Malekmian, The Green News (Ireland)

April 12th, 2019


The State must respond to the existential threat of climate change by ramping up support for on-farm environmental services, the leader of the Green Party has said.


Speaking at an Oireachtas committee hearing on the future of the Irish beef industry this week, Eamon Ryan said that payments to farmers’ must radically change to reward work to improve “water quality, biodiversity protection and good [product] quality”.


He said that by incentivising farmers to practice eco-friendly meat and dairy production, the industry would attract consumers’ support. A focus on good quality produce will allow the sector to charge “premium prices”, he added.


According to the agri-research body Teagasc, only 25 per cent of cattle farms are economically viable. The average cattle farm income was just under €17,000 in 2017, although this figure is “skewed” by the top third of farms that have a large number of higher earners.


Teagasc has also found that nearly 40 per cent of cattle farms are socially vulnerable, largely due to low incomes and an aging cohort working in the area.


“I think the climate way is the way for getting out of this difficulty by getting consumers on your side,” Mr Ryan said at the hearing. “I think it’s actually the way to start paying Irish farmers properly.”


If such policy would be adopted, Mr Ryan said that the beef industry would have the Green Party’s support which it lacks with the “the current system”.


Agriculture is the largest contributor to Irish greenhouse gas emissions, with 33 per cent of the national emissions total in 2017.


Almost all of Ireland’s ammonia emissions also come from animal waste and the spreading of synthetic fertilisers.


Ireland’s ammonia emissions have increased since 2011 and were 0.6 per cent above the 2010 National Emissions Ceiling of 116,000 tonnes in 2016.


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