Addressing the 68th agm of the Irish Farmers Association recently, IFA president Tim Cullinan set out the association’s commitment to the agreed climate targets, writes Emma Connolly
THE IFA is committed to meeting the sector’s climate targets, but has warned this would only be possible if the government plays its part.
So said IFA president Tim Cullinan in his address to the 68th agm of the organisation last week.
‘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,’ he said.
But he said the message to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture will be that the emphasis must be on reducing emissions, not on reducing output.
‘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. And 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, he 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.
He was also critical of a decision by An Taisce to challenge the nitrates action programme in the courts, describing them as being anti-dairy farming, in particular.
‘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,’ said Mr Cullinan.
He was also critical of the ‘very small but vocal anti-farming lobby that is currently operating a misleading national advertising campaign, completely unregulated.’
‘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.’
Finally he urged 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. The Bill to appoint a Food Regulator is back before the Dáil. It is long overdue. The Minister needs to make this happen.’