Fears farms will be 'decimated' as farmers call for further details on emissions cuts

'A farm can’t remain sustainable and try and implement cuts to that effect'
Fears farms will be 'decimated' as farmers call for further details on emissions cuts

Vanessa Kiely O’Connor: ‘The next generation is not going to be interested in having anything to do with farming as it stands.’

From her experience, Alice Doyle said there are two things having a “big effect” on farm families: one is the uncertainty, “that they have no idea what’s coming down the line”; the second is the “vilification of the farming community”.

The Irish Farmers’ Association farm family committee chairwoman has said “an awful lot of family farmers are really feeling the impact” of this vilification —with farmers feeling “that they are the enemy when actually we are not the enemy”.

“It is having a detrimental effect psychologically on both young and old in farming,” Ms Doyle told the Irish Examiner.

“We’ve all contributed to emissions and climate change, we all can contribute to the correction of it, but I think it’s very important that everybody takes responsibility for the correction and that it’s not blamed on one sector.”

With a 25% cut in emissions expected of the agricultural sector by 2030, the effects of this cut on Irish family farms could be “devastating, as the family farm at the moment is barely viable and in many cases hardly viable”, Ms Doyle has warned. “In order to stay viable, it can’t afford to take much more cuts than it’s already taking,” she said.

“The family farmer is very willing to do what they can to improve things so as to reduce emissions, but it has to be done in a sustainable way — and the 25% cut cannot be done in a sustainable way.

“A farm can’t remain sustainable and try and implement cuts to that effect.

“The problem is, we don’t even know what the cuts are — we don’t even know what we’re going to be asked to do.”

Ms Doyle stressed that farmers cannot continue to do any practices that cause harm to the environment, but in the past, they “have been very good at taking the scientific advice, improving their production, applying new methods that they were given”.

“Now we’re being asked to change again — we will change again, but we have to be given time to do it,” she added. “Miracles don’t happen, and it’s all possible, but we have to be realistic.”

Ms Doyle said that for farm and rural families, emissions cuts for every sector were going to hugely affect their daily lives.

“Whether it’s the effect it’s having directly on the farm or directly on their budget, because a farm family also has to live and they have to have their car and have to do their shopping, they have to rear their children.

“All of these emissions cuts that are going to have to be made, we’re going to have to take all of that on board as well as the agricultural [target].”

'There isn't an income from it'

Vanessa Kiely O’Connor farms a 65-cow dairy herd in West Cork.

She told the Irish Examiner, in response to the 25% target announcement, that she has “always worked Government policy and done all the things that were expected of her” environmentally on her farm.

There is an urgency among farmers, including Ms Kiely O’Connor, to gain further information on what the overall emissions reduction target might mean at an individual farm level.

Give us the details so I can actually calculate how much my farm is going to be decimated and whether it’s going to be worth my while looking forward to the future.”

“Because the next generation is certainly not going to be interested in having anything to do with farming with the way it is at the moment," she said.

“There isn’t an income from it; if there isn’t an income from it, you can’t expect any generation to jump in.

“I’m passionate, and I love what I do, and it’ll take a lot for me to step aside, but there’s a fine line, I’m well aware of the costs of trying to run a family and trying to run a farm and at the moment it’s just not equating.”

She fears that “the best of farmers” will be lost, “because the good has been taken out of it for all the work that has been put in with the parameters we’ve been given over the years and the targets, and now the goalposts are moving again”.

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