Dairy farmers now believe that a major change in Ireland’s water conservation laws will mean an effective reduction in livestock.
It comes as Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan and Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue meet to agree a controversial sector-specific emissions target for the agricultural sector.
Minister Ryan is targeting a 30 percent cut in farm emissions, a move farmer officials said would devastate the agricultural sector here.
Meanwhile, Secretary McConalogue is under pressure from his own Fianna Fáil party, including his predecessor Barry Cowen, rural backbencher in Fine Gael and the farming lobby, to agree to cut emissions by just the minimum 22 per cent target by 2030.
However, after meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, ICMSA President Pat McCormack said family dairy farmers had already been “sold out” by the Minister.
A major rule change in Ireland’s recent Nitrates Action Plan, which sets limits on livestock stocking rates on farms, will result in those limits being lowered in areas of declining water quality.
An Taisce, meanwhile, is trying to challenge the plan in the High Court, claiming that its implementation will have detrimental effects on Ireland’s waterways and protected areas due to excessive nitrate pollution from agricultural sources.
McCormack said the rule change was a “plan to reduce cow numbers on family dairy farms” and claimed it would have no positive impact on water quality.
“While the government claims to support family farms and leaders from the two main parties have said they do not support herd reduction, the reality is that family farms – the backbone of rural Ireland – are now facing herd reductions because a rule has not or only a small influence on the water quality.
“Actions speak louder than words and the Minister’s policies will affect families, many of whom have been dairy farmers for generations.
“A 40ha dairy farmer milking 112 cows under current regulations could have to reduce the number of cows by 29 under the agreement agreed between the minister and the EU Commission. The reality is these family farms will be put out of business and we will see an industrialization of dairy farming if it is not changed,” Mr McCormack said.
It comes ahead of a meeting today between the leader of the Green Party and Mr McConalogue, where they will seek to reach an agreement on the agricultural emissions cap.
In a sign of potential difficulties with an imminent deal, Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night declined to say whether he would support the introduction of a 30 percent target on agricultural emissions.
“It’s not just about setting goals, we really need to focus on execution, and execution has been a challenge over the last few years and will continue to be a challenge,” he said.
A government source familiar with ongoing talks between the two departments suggested a compromise could include an emissions cap that’s halfway between 22 percent and 30 percent, arguing that it’s less about the percentage and more about it go what could be done.
“Logic would dictate that it will end up there, in the middle; if it’s equally bad for both sides, it’s a good deal,” they said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/little-known-rule-change-that-could-already-cut-livestock-numbers-on-some-farms-41855280.html Little-known rule change that could already reduce livestock on some farms