25 June 2021
Extinction Rebellion and farmers joined forces outside the Department of Agriculture today and urged the Government to ensure a Just Transition for farmers.
The action was organised by Extinction Rebellion to protest against the Irish Government’s inaction in supporting family farms just days before the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiations are set to conclude.
The policy will shape farming across the bloc for the next seven years and environmental activists have been repeatedly calling for it to be withdrawn given its current terms.
The CAP has consistently failed to reward farming practices that are compatible with climate action, according to Extinction Rebellion, and the group remains committed to protesting against it.
The European-wide policy, if adopted, will be in place from now until 2027.
The problem with CAP
The vast majority of Common Agricultural Policy funds goes to just a fifth of the country, which has left the country’s farming sector largely “crippled”, according to farmer and campaigner Gerry Loftus.
A small fraction of dairy farmers operate in a way that “is not about livelihood, it’s a business that’s making huge money, millions for corporations,” according to Mr. Loftus.
Dairy cattle numbers have steadily climbed since the dairy quota was lifted in 2015 and politicians at the time were promoting the sector’s expansion, Mr. Loftus told The Green News.
“It was the complete opposite of what we should have been doing at the time, and this has created a massive bill for taxpayers now and massive fines that we’re going to pay in 2030.
There are also huge problems with water quality and biodiversity. At the end of the day it’s only a very small percentage of farmers in the dairy sector. The rest of them are going to be left with a massive, massive debt,” he said.
Manuel Salazar of Extinction Rebellion echoed Mr. Loftus’ belief that the current system has been unjust for farmers across Ireland.
“When it comes to climate change, everyone needs to be involved. No one can be left behind, and this is one of our key messages with calling for a Just Transition. Farmers realise that and organisations realise that and that’s why we’ve come together,” he said.
To date, Ireland’s current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans have been deemed insufficient to deliver robust climate action, according to Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.
In their examination of Ireland’s draft CAP Strategic Plan, the authors noted a clash between continued dairy expansion and the need for climate mitigation in future CAP plans.
Irish agriculture & emissions
To date, agriculture is Ireland’s largest emitting sector, now accounting for over a third of total emissions.
According to the latest available EPA data, these emissions appeared to have increased slightly last year up by almost half a percent due to greater use of fuel and nitrogen fertiliser.
The dairy herd has consistently grown each year over the past decade, and from 2014 to 2019 alone its numbers increased by almost a quarter while milk production rose by 41 per cent.
The EPA has previously referenced the Food Wise 2025 Strategy and the removal of aforementioned dairy quotas as key factors in the industry’s growth.
By Shauna Burdis and Thomas Hamilton