Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Ceisteanna - Questions
National Risk Assessment
Coming from a rural constituency, the issue of biodiversity is something of which I am very conscious. One of the issues mentioned by Deputy Boyd Barrett, monoculture forestry, is a very clear problem. It is not afforestation for carbon sequestration or anything else. It is basically about the timber industry making maximum profit and being supported in that regard by Government and public policy. We need to see how public policy can be used to enhance biodiversity. One of the examples of that is through the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, which was mentioned earlier.
With respect, I disagree slightly with the Green Party in respect of bending the rules a little. Everything that happens in nature happens when weather changes. By and large, we have to work with the weather we are given. That is what farmers have to do and what they have always traditionally done. However, the intensification of agriculture has brought us in a different direction, and that has caused problems. We need to recognise and work with that. In fairness to most people in the farming community, they want to work with that and come up with solutions, but they need assistance in that respect.
The issue facing us at the moment with the very warm weather is going to be around fodder and whether farmers will be able to get enough. Next winter people will be saying that we had a hot summer and that is the reason we do not have fodder. We will be facing a crisis. Then it will be a wet winter and then it will be something else. I acknowledge it is not something about which the Government can do anything. However, Government policy and public policy have roles to play. The seaweed harvesting that we see going on in Bantry Bay is the equivalent of pouring Roundup into the ocean. That needs to be acknowledged. Again, Government policy is at the root of that problem.