Addressing the 68th Annual General Meeting of the Irish Farmers’ Association in the Irish Farm Centre last week, IFA President Tim Cullinan set out the Association’s commitment to meeting the sector’s climate targets, but warned this would only be possible if the Government plays its part.
He said: “If we get the right supports and fair measurement, our sector has a real opportunity to lead the way in reducing climate emissions. This will only happen if the Government brings farmers with them.
“Our message to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture when they attend the AGM later will be that the emphasis must be on reducing emissions, not on reducing output. Engage with farmers to agree on a way forward.
“We need to hear from the Minister what his proposals are to provide economic viability for our vulnerable beef, sheep and tillage sectors. We need a plan for the sustainable growth of all our sectors. It is time to stop talking them down,” he said.
“Forcing farmers to re-wet their land is not the way to go. Doing a deal with an investment house from the UK to buy up land for forestry is not the way to go. And locking farmers out of an agri-environment scheme is definitely not the way to go,” he said.
Looking to the year ahead, the IFA President pointed to several key priorities for the Association. He outlined that as the agri sector is the most exposed to Brexit, it must follow that the majority of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) should come to those most impacted. He said it was exceptionally worrying that farmers had received nothing to date, given the fund has to be used by the end of this year.
The IFA President was critical of the decision by An Taisce to challenge the Nitrates Action Programme in the courts, describing them as being anti-dairy farming in particular.
He said: “Despite all the changes, they want to eliminate the derogation. The dairy expansion has been a huge success story for farmers, rural Ireland and the economy. We will be in court to represent our members. And we will fight tooth and nail to keep farmers in business.”
The IFA President was critical of the very small but vocal anti-farming lobby that is currently operating a misleading national adverting campaign, completely unregulated.
He said: “We live in an era where we have full accountability for every penny our politicians spend during election time. Meanwhile, we have a group called ‘Go Vegan World’ spending hundreds of thousands on adverts to undermine our sector.
“Nobody knows where the money comes from. When we complained to the Advertising Standards Authority in 2019, they washed their hands of it. The Government needs to regulate this space. Any organisation running a political campaign needs to show where their money is coming from.”
He concluded by urging the Minister to appoint a food regulator without further delay.
“Pigs, poultry, horticulture and potatoes have suffered badly. They all have one thing in common. They depend on the home market. Our retailers had to be dragged kicking and screaming to give increases to these sectors. They need to take a hard look at themselves. This week, the Bill to appoint a Food Regulator is back before the Dáil. It is long overdue. The Minister needs to make this happen.”