A voluntary pension scheme, a methane quota and a ban on the development of “mega-dairy” farms are among a series of recommendations agreed by a high-level dairy industry group to limit emissions in the sector.
Draft Dairy Vision Group report to be submitted to and consulted by the Minister for Agriculture Independent Farming predicts that the number of dairy cows is expected to grow to 1.65 million by 2030, and based on increased dairy cow numbers, total emissions are expected to be back in the region of 23 tons in 2021.
The report states that the Irish dairy industry and dairy farmers accept that they must change the way they do business along with other sectors of society if they are to meet the ambitious, legally binding emissions reduction targets set out in the Climate Action Act 2021
However, it also stressed the vital importance of securing the livelihoods of current and future generations of Irish dairy and beef farmers.
“The dairy industry has been the preeminent source of income in Irish agriculture for a number of years. It has provided for the rearing and education of generations of farming families,” it said.
The group suggested in the report that the government should consider a voluntary “retirement/exit scheme” for all ranchers.
Such a system could provide a just transition space for the next generation to adopt climate-friendly practices, and it is suggested that such a system would also integrate a milk reduction scheme for those farmers wishing to scale back their farming activities.
However, it is difficult to establish the principles and operational aspects of such a program and stressed that unless land is closed and/or ruminant numbers are reared and milk production is stabilized and reduced, the climate positive impacts will have the climate positive impacts plan cannot be realised.
It also said that identifying sources of funding, the role of industry and the potential for public-private partnerships, and identifying diversification of business opportunities would be key factors.
During the group’s deliberations, the Department of Agriculture presented three options for the dairy sector for CAP emissions: (i) Cap and trade: set an overall cap on methane emissions, allocate methane or production rights, and allow dairy and beef farmers to trade rights within a overall cap. (ii) Cow number limitation for production (iii) Milk quantity limitation for production.
The group opposed cow count and milk yield restrictions, but called the cap-and-trade model the “least worst option” should restrictions be needed.
Implementing a full cap-and-trade model requires a detailed carbon trading facilitation framework that includes measuring total carbon emissions and capping at the individual farm level, as well as assigning rights and creating a trading scheme.
It was also recommended to reduce the use of chemical nitrogen in the dairy sector by 35 percent in the short term
Term and that by the end of 2025 an 80-part replacement rate of CAN with protected urea will be achieved for grass-based milk production systems.
Ban on new “mega” dairies
Other measures proposed by the group included a “common policy” on milk intake for new entrants.
Stakeholders recognized the need to protect the grass-based model of family farms and to maintain the sector’s ambitions to attract talented newcomers to the dairy industry in order to maintain the viability of the sector.
However, it is said that a continuous expansion mode, high growth dairy farming model is incompatible with this approach.
The group recommends the need for a consistent milk intake policy across co-ops for new entrants, prioritizing young farmers with businesses built on family farms, grass-based and sustainable models.
To prevent mega-herds from developing, cow cap restrictions for new businesses should be considered and all contract terms should be reviewed over a period of years.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/methane-quota-and-ban-on-the-development-of-mega-dairy-farms-among-proposals-to-cap-dairy-emissions-41533342.html Methane quota and ban on development of “mega-dairy farms” under proposals to limit milk emissions