Climate action ‘potential threat’ to beef industry

Published by Kayle Crosson on

June 26th, 2019

Climate action measures are a “potential threat” to the beef sector, a new Joint Committee on Agriculture report has found.

The Future of the Beef sector in the context of Food Wise 2025 report launched yesterday examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats to the Irish beef industry.

The report comes at the mid-point for ten-year Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine plan Food Wise 2025 which began in 2015.

The plan identified growth projections for the agriculture industry, such as the creation of 23,000 additional jobs and an 85 per cent increase in exports.

The beef sector was set as the report’s focus as the industry is under “increasing pressure for a number of reasons” according to Committee chairman Pat Deering TD, one being agriculture’s role in climate change.

“The evidence provided to the Committee indicates that stakeholders in the beef sector are willing to play their part,” Mr Deering said in the report’s foreword.

“But the Committee believes that a much more detailed discussion between all stakeholders needs to take place so that the ambitions of the agricultural sector can be aligned with Ireland’s Paris Agreement commitments,” he continued.

Recognizing agriculture as a sector accounting for one-third of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, the Committee, endorsed the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Climate Action and recommended that the Department of Agriculture engage on a cross-departmental level with the “farming, environmental and scientific communities”.

The plan also reiterated its support for its own 2018 report to the Minister for Agriculture entitled Climate Change and Sustainability in the Agriculture and Food Sectors.

Amongst the 2018 report’s recommendations were to encourage emission reductions in livestock and manure management and in agricultural soils/fertilizers, as well the incentivization of reduced food waste and organic farming.

The report also discussed the implications of the prospective EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement that is currently being negotiated between the two regional trading blocs.

If established, the deal would allow for free trade between the EU and the four founding members of the South American trade region Mercosur, including Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Such an agreement, the report found, may have unintended consequences, such as “cheaper and less carbon efficient beef from South America will come onto the EU market.”

As a result, in its recommendations, the Committee objected strongly to the inclusion of beef products in the prospective bi-regional trade deal.

However, the beef industry faces a number of issues, Mr Deering said at the launch and that no “silver bullet solutions” currently exist to address them.

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.