The plan by the Irish government’s Department of Agriculture to cull 200,000 cows at a cost of €600 million over the next three years in order to meet carbon targets has made headlines in the European Media this week.
The Department stated that the report, as seen by Farming Independent, was a “modelling document” and “not final policy”.
Irish politician Peadar Tóibín highlighted figures in parliament that showed a high number of cattle could be “culled” by 2025, posing an “incredible threat to the farming sector at a cost of about €600 million” to taxpayers.
Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that the agriculture sector was responsible for 38% of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2021. According to EPA, this came mostly from methane in livestock and nitrous oxide from the use of nitrogen fertiliser and manure management.
The proposals outlined in the document are believed to be part of the government’s bid to reduce agricultural emissions by 25% by 2030.
Addressing the Oireachtas Environment and Climate Committee in March, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said that one of the recommendations of the dairy food division group was to explore a voluntary dairy reduction scheme as part of its ‘Climate Action Plan’ for 2023. The Minister expects this to be clarified by the end of the year and set up at the beginning of 2024.
McConalogue, in a statement on Food Vision Dairy Group’s report in October last year, indicated that the group had discussed various issues, including “the calculation of the current emissions inventory, pathways to reductions in nitrous oxide emissions and the challenge facing the dairy sector in terms of stabilising and then reducing emissions”.
Irish Farmers’ Association president, Tim Cullinan, said that the report would “further erode” farmer trust in the government.
He added: “Reducing dairy or beef production in Ireland will also lead to ‘carbon leakage’ with production moving to other countries with a higher carbon footprint. This is likely to increase global warming rather than reducing it.”
The Department of Agriculture was contacted by FoodBev Media.
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