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 Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)
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I thank everybody for their contributions. I want to recognise my neighbour, Mr. Traas. The engagement today has been very positive, particularly from Dr. Dunford and Dr. Moran in terms of their narrative that this is not about farmers against anybody else but about bringing farmers along with us. It was stated that the best way to do that is to support farmers financially and because that is the right thing to do. I genuinely believe that farmers understand this. I agree that we need to bring them on that road in terms of education, supports and what needs to be done but there needs to be a financial element to it as well. In any scheme brought forward by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine there has to be a financial advantage for a farmer to buy into it. They are willing to do it.

Reference was made to biodiversity and managing land. There is no one better at doing that than farmers. They recognise that and they recognise that their produce is better when it comes from land that is well cared for and well looked after. In Tipperary, we know that well. Mr. Traas would know exactly where I come from. We are tillage farmers at home. On a personal level, I want to acknowledge the work Mr. Traas does locally in Tipperary. He is known further afield than Tipperary, Munster or Ireland. He is known across Europe. He does a lot of promotional work in relation to tourism for the Tipperary area and a lot of work in terms of Cahir farmers' market, which has a great reputation. The quality of food is what he is best known for.

Some of my questions are to Mr. Traas in some ways, but also to all of the witnesses. Many people are getting involved in agriculture or food. They have the best will in the world to be climate friendly and do all the right things but they are not aware of what they can do or how they can do it. How can we best educate or support them in doing what Mr. Traas has been doing for 20-plus years? He has been way ahead of the curve. A number of years ago, we changed how we worked on our farm. We were tillage farmers. We still are tillage farmers but some of our crop is used for whiskey and gin. We are trying to turn part of our farm into producing from farm to bottle without the product ever leaving the family farm. That is something new. My question is how we can do that in the best environmental way. How can we as a Government support people in how to do that properly, but not financially? There is a role as well for the local enterprise offices. They are there to support businesses. Farmers are businesses. The local employment offices play a key role in terms of getting businesses up and running over a number of years. Tipperary is a good area for new start-up businesses. We need to educate farmers from an environmental point of view in terms of what is sustainable long-term and the role they can play in that regard.

As has been already stated, farmers want to do what is right. They absolutely hate paperwork. That is not so true of the younger generation, but they still dislike it. We need to bring forth more schemes like GLAS that are environmentally friendly in order to make it manageable for farmers to buy into this. This has been a really positive engagement today. I thank the witnesses for that.