Agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue has called for continued measures to provide ongoing support for Ukrainian agriculture, emphasising the need for close monitoring of the impacts of the Russian invasion on European markets and supply chains.
Speaking ahead of today’s meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels, Minister McConalogue said the impact of the illegal invasion of Ukraine on the country itself and on its citizens is the primary consideration, adding that:
"As agriculture Ministers, we are keenly aware of the particularly serious impact of the invasion on the Ukrainian agriculture sector, and the knock-on effects on Ukrainian citizens. European initiatives such as direct aid, Solidarity Lanes and the Black Sea Initiative should therefore be maintained and added to where possible.”
Referring to the situation on European markets, the Minister continued, similarly, the European agriculture sector continues to be impacted on a wide scale, with all Member States and all sectors being affected in different ways.
"For Ireland, the supply of feed and fertiliser is something we need to watch especially carefully. I welcome the Commission’s recent communication on fertiliser and I will inform the Council today that I am eager to hear more about the next steps.”
Minister McConalogue also sounded a note of caution regarding calls from some Member States for the deployment of the agricultural reserve, saying that while he was open to considering proposals, funds in the reserve were limited due to the time of year.
“We should also consider whether the reserve is the appropriate tool to deal with what may be more long-term and structural change," Mr McConalogue added.
The Minister said Ireland’s largely grass-based production system should be considered when progressing the revision of the Directive.
“The setting of thresholds is a critically important point. In my view we should not be regulating family farms - which are typically of modest scale and pasture-based - in the same manner as we do industrial-scale enterprises.
“That means that we must strike the right balance between the delivery of environmental and health improvements by reducing ammonia and methane emissions - which we all want - and the imposition of administrative and cost burdens on farms which are generally based on family labour, or with limited external labour."
Speaking on the development of the bioeconomy, the minister said it could offer solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing member states, including the need to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, diversification and decarbonisation as well as providing additional income streams for farmers.
Minister McConalogue also referred to the planned discussion on the revision of animal transport legislation, saying that “Ireland strongly supports the revision of European rules on animal welfare during transport and calls on the Commission to provide a comprehensive impact assessment in conjunction with its proposal."
“The primary objective of the revision of the legislation should be the continued facilitation of high-welfare intra-community trade and export of live animals.
“We should draw on the experiences and good practices of Member States in implementing and enforcing the current legislation. In this regard, Ireland has introduced national legislation that goes beyond the minimum laid down in existing EU rules.”