Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Climate Change Issues specific to the Agriculture, Food and Marine Sectors: Discussion (Resumed)

3:30 pm

Mr. Joe Condon:

We call on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to formulate a strategic plan that addresses climate and environmental needs, part of which will include measures that yield high EU environmental added value and which will be rewarded on an output basis. Such measures would include the following. The conservation of permanent pasture; the conservation of peatlands and wetlands; the maintenance and improvement of Natura and commonage farmland habitats; maintaining agriculture in areas with natural constraints; biodiversity-enhancing cattle grazing schemes, especially on the uplands where it is acknowledged that livestock manage the diverse plant life; a burning and land management scheme that reduces the risk of wildfires and their spread; no imposition of collective action clauses to gain access to schemes; and no collective agreement for commonage farmers to gain entry to any scheme.

Farmers need to be rewarded fairly for the delivery of ecosystem services as they relate to soil, water, biodiversity, air quality, climate action, and the provision of landscape amenities for the public good.

Where it can be demonstrated that farming systems or practices provide carbon sinks, the carbon credit should be owned by the farmer. Measures for generational renewal should include a young farmers and early retirement schemes

We recommend that further research be carried out to quantify the carbon sequestration properties of extensive farming on commonage and Natura farmland. Research should also be carried out to quantify the carbon sequestration properties of broadleaf trees compared to conifers and the age at which sequestration is most effective. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine should be the clearing house in trading carbon between different farming systems.

Due to increased rainfall, more flexibility is required at member state level to set slurry spreading dates that take local conditions and weather patterns into account because the one-size-fits-all EU regulation all is unworkable. It is becoming impossible to spread slurry in the current manner.

Bio-digesters and anaerobic digestion are essential, and the solution for the uplands in that regard is on a co-operative scale. Such digesters would be developed in partnership with local communities or smart villages, providing them with gas and heat. The particulate could be returned to farmlands as fertiliser.

Farmers with natural environmental constraints should be rewarded for the enhancement and preservation of such natural resources and the production from those farms as regards sheepmeat, beef, and cottage industries should be marketed to premium-paying customers.

The Oireachtas must bring forward legislation to make agricultural land a special asset of the State, as already determined by the EU Commission. Non-farmers should not be given the same grant rate or premium payment as farmers.

There is a closed period for cutting hedgerows to protect habitat loss for biodiversity but foresters can clear fell during this closed time, completely removing habitats. Farmers in existing forestry contracts should not be forced to replant. Should they wish to do so, they should be given the option of putting in mixed broadleaf and be paid annually for sequestration and other services rendered. There should be no carbon tax on agriculture.

I thank the members for their time.


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