Former dairy chief Jim Woulfe has backed proposals to encourage farmers to phase out animal production on a voluntary basis to help the sector meet its climate targets.
The former Dairygold CEO said the future of the agri-food sector is very bright but warned that the “fly in the ointment” for the country as a food-producing nation is our sustainability.
Speaking at the Fianna Fáil national conference on agricultural policy over the weekend in Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath, Woulfe said: “We are moving in the right direction. We need to pick up the pace and move into a real action phase now. The gap between here and 2030 is narrowing and there is no time to remain in the discussion phase, we must enter the action phase.”
The level of greenhouse gas emissions, he said, is something the sector needs to grapple with and make significant changes to.
“While our global reputation is excellent, one of the barometers that is understood by all is water quality. The water quality has deteriorated and we need to reverse this very quickly.
“It’s a raw nerve for the common man… it’s unacceptable that the water quality isn’t up to the required standard, that it’s deteriorating, particularly in the south and south-east. That is one of the first issues to address.”
He said at the time in connection with sustainability and the climate challenge: “We have to bite the bullet in connection with the voluntary phase-out programs for cattle farmers.”
There has always been a natural exit from production, he said, with the number of dairy farmers falling from 72,000 in 1983 when milk quotas were introduced to 18,000 today.
“We had a tremendous movement from the dairy at this point. And we’ve had milk quota buyouts… and milk quota restructuring programs. There was no excitement, no encouragement. There was a reward for moving to other companies.”
The aggression and fear in the Netherlands at the moment, he said, can be avoided. “We can develop an incentive-based approach to change. There is no doubt that 2-3 percent of dairy farmers go out of business every year. That could be higher with an incentive.
“We can no longer avoid the problem, and we must face it in order to address the climate change agenda.
“Voluntary is the most important word in the context of moving forward.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/bite-the-bullet-on-livestock-reduction-urges-former-dairygold-chief-42196187.html “Bite the bullet” when it comes to reducing livestock, the former Dairygold boss says