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Dublin Farmers Protest as Government Defends Climate Change

Farmers have gathered in Dublin for a major protest against government policy as the Minister for Agriculture said 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 (CAP) and the Climate Action Plan.

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

The tractors travelled along the quays, before crossing over the River Liffey and journeying up Kildare Street past the Dáil and the Department of Agriculture.

The demonstration finished at Merrion Square.

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 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 told Newstalk.

“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.

The IFA said every policy, including the proposed National Strategic Plan to implement the Common Agricultural Policy, is designed to reduce production.

IFA President Tim Cullinan, who is leading the convoy, said 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,” Cullinan said.

“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.”

“Farmers are very conscious of the climate challenge, and farmers want to play their part. But this Government has no plan. Farmers are being talked at, rather than talked to.

The government needs to provide more funding, including a properly-funded Common Agricultural Policy, to ensure that farmers can take on the climate challenge while remaining viable.

Cullinan also said only 30% of farmers in Ireland are currently viable and the government’s policies will make more family farms unviable. 

“The farming and food sector employs 300,000 people across the country, and we contributed €13billion in exports in 2020. We will not be ignored or pushed aside,” he said.

“The reality is that if food is not produced in Ireland, it will be produced in countries with a higher carbon footprint such as Brazil, where it was reported this week that 13,235 square kilometres of rainforest were cleared in 2020/2021.”

McConalogue said 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.

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.”

On RTE’s The Week in Politics, Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said: “There’s nothing more obvious than we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“And those people who are involved in the farming sectors, they are really at the business end of this.”

She said that the “small family farm has been squeezed time and time again by big producers” and said that her party supported the creation of a commission to look at the future of family farms in Ireland.


Source: https://www.thejournal.ie/tractor-protest-dublin-5607698-Nov2021/

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