Dublin: Farmers protest as minister defends Government climate targets

A convoy of farmers passing through Dublin city centre to call on the Government to listen to their concerns on the common agricultural policy and the Climate Action Plan. Picture date: Sunday November 21, 2021.
A convoy of farmers passing through Dublin city centre to call on the Government to listen to their concerns on the common agricultural policy and the Climate Action Plan. Picture date: Sunday November 21, 2021.

Gardai warn people to expect some delays and disruption to traffic

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Farmers have gathered in Dublin for a major protest, as the Agriculture Minister said on Sunday that he was listening to their concerns.

A convoy of tractors gathered in Dublin city centre to call on the Government to listen to their demands on the common agricultural policy and the Climate Action Plan.

Gardai have warned people to expect some delays and disruption to traffic.

A larger demonstration had been planned by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) but was scaled back due to the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said on Sunday that he had been clear with farmers about the Government’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and would work with them over the coming years.

Agriculture has been set a reduction target of between 22% and 30% in the Government’s recent strategy.

“The objective here is to reduce emissions, not to reduce the food we produce,” the Donegal TD said.

Handout photo of a convoy of farmers passing through Dublin city centre to call on the Government to listen to their concerns on the common agricultural policy and the Climate Action Plan. Picture date: Sunday November 21, 2021.
Handout photo of a convoy of farmers passing through Dublin city centre to call on the Government to listen to their concerns on the common agricultural policy and the Climate Action Plan. Picture date: Sunday November 21, 2021.

“We’re very fortunate in terms of the fact that the agriculture model we have nationally is one of the most sustainable food-producing systems in the world, being grass-based, pasture-based.”

He also predicted that farming would emerge stronger through the next decade.

Farmers have accused the Government of leaving them with uncertain futures.

On Sunday, IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “Every policy of this Government, including their proposed National Strategic Plan to implement the common agricultural policy, is designed to reduce production. Farmers are being asked to do more and more for less.”

“We have consistently called for genuine engagement and negotiation with farm organisations to develop a farm-level plan that farmers can work towards achieving. To date, nothing has been forthcoming.

“All farmers have received is empty rhetoric and lofty targets with nothing to back them up.

“Uncertainty is detrimental for any business; farming is no different. Farmers are reaching the end of their tether.”

He also said that farmers are being “talked at, rather than talked to” on climate change.

The Fianna Fail minister told Newstalk that the emissions reduction target would become more specific in the years to come.

“It is a range of between 22-30% and that will evolve over the decade as it becomes clear what the different capacity of various sectors to deliver is.”

“We have already made significant progress over the last two to three years,” he said.

“In agriculture, about 30% of the overall sector’s emissions is nitrous oxide based, which is how we manage fertilisers and organic manures.”

He said that a clear solution was to reduce the use of fertiliser and reduce emissions from slurry.

He also said that there were signs that methane production can be reduced through developing technologies.

Mr McConalogue said that any innovations would not detract from the international attractiveness of Irish beef.

“We would without doubt remain as a grass-based production system. There’s no two ways about that,” he said.

On methane reduction, he insisted that the Government is “pushing on with all of the steps we can take immediately”.

“There is no doubt it will be a decade of change, it will be a decade of transformation.”