A NEW Rural Ideas Forum could help reduce rural depopulation in Clare if it is properly implemented, according to Clare Beef Plan secretary, Bláth Cooney.
However, Ms Cooney has warned this proposal, which is contained in the new Programme for Government conflicts with existing policies of urbanisation and large-scale afforestation and also the new EU Protected Areas plan, which proposes to designate 10% of the country as very high level special protected areas.
She pledged the Beef Plan Movement will monitor the implementation of the consultation process and insist that the commitment to support farmers and local food businesses is honoured.
“Some of this support is framed as a drive to improve land management to reduce emissions. It is important to recognise that in general farmers know their own land and improvements must be proposed in consultation with farmers rather than being imposed upon them.
“This system has worked well in the locally-led schemes. The longest-established of these is the Burren Life Programme which has worked well for farmers and has demonstrated environmental, economic and social results.
“The new Programme for Government has a lot of aspirational detail but it is less specific on how these aspirations are to be achieved,” she stated.
While it is appropriate the new PfG recognises the ‘special economic and social role’ of agriculture, she wondered how it will be reconciled with policies of restricting new farmhouses, extensive afforestation, the designation of 10% of the countryside as highly protected areas and the average annual 7% reduction in carbon emissions.
Beef Plan feels that it is absolutely essential that the carbon sequestration of hedgerows and grazed grasslands is taken into account. This existing benefit must be rewarded by calculating net rather than gross livestock emissions before further burdens are imposed on farmers.
“The acknowledgement of the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane is therefore very welcome as this should facilitate some understanding of the distinction between cyclical livestock emissions and the effectively non-cyclical fossil fuel emissions.
“Beef Plan acknowledges that the commitment to review greenhouse gas emissions on a consumption basis, recognising the limitations of assessment solely on a production basis, is very heartening and could indeed have very far-reaching implications.
“Such a review would require a realistic figure for carbon emissions to be imposed on imported goods, such as Brazilian beef, and, coupled with the calculation of net emissions from Irish beef, would build a very strong case for marketing Irish beef as very environmentally friendly.
“However it is unclear how this review of the assessment basis would impact on State reporting obligations to the EU and the UN,” she stated.
She warned pledges in the PfG to provide a fair standard of living for farmers will not be achieved while the EU continues to import food from countries that operate under different quality standards and regulations.
She called for some “tangible action” to provide greater transparency in the beef supply chain in light of the recent decision by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) there isn’t enough evidence of a suspected breach of competition law to warrant an official investigation into the alleged operation of a beef cartel.