Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Reduction of Carbon Emissions of 51% by 2030: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank all the speakers for their informative presentations. This is a timely discussion. I hope it will be the beginning of a continuous engagement with the committee.

I will start at the end and work back. I thank Mr. Sheehan for his presentation. He is effectively saying what I have been saying for a long time. The reality though is that farmers have been compliant with public policy. There is little doubt that they followed the different incentives and schemes initiated by successive Governments and which were based around the promotion of and expected demand for produce and the consequent employment created for the State. Mr. Sheehan has rightly identified that as a race to the bottom. The only people who have benefited from this process have been the processors and retailers because they have a steady supply of cheap food.

Mr. Sheehan is also right in what he is advocating. Farmers must be paid for the work they do for the environment and in reducing carbon output. It is hard for farmers, however, to accept that at a remove until they see the extent of that support. They are on a sort of a hamster wheel in that they recognise that they must produce more food year-on-year to get an income that will allow them to raise and educate their families. Until the Government steps in and identifies the extent of the financial reward in this regard, I do not think many farmers will buy into this concept. That is a real requirement and I would like to hear Mr. Sheehan's views on this issue, including the extent of such a payment.

Farmers are also concerned when they see the potential for other countries and their evident failure to meet the various limits put in place. President Bolsonaro did not even attend the COP26 meeting this week. An agreement to end the rate of deforestation has been signed, but it does not apply until 2030. On the other hand, we are part of the Mercosur deal where Brazil has the opportunity to export cheaper beef into this country. Would Mr. Sheehan accept that there is an issue regarding international trade agreements in the context of getting farmers on board with schemes here? Will we also have to step up to the plate and identify the extent to which we are prepared to compensate farmers for the work they are doing on the environment?

I have known Mr. Dunford for a long time and the work he and the lads are doing on the Burren project is a model of excellence. He identified farmers, such as Michael Davern and others, who recognised the opportunities in this area at an early stage. I would welcome any further comments Mr. Dunford might have regarding how we might transpose that model which was initially concerned with relatively small family farms, where most of the people concerned were often not full-time farmers, to more commercially-orientated farms. Does he have any ideas on opportunities for the larger dairy farms to farm more in tandem with nature than what the market has demanded up to now?


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