‘I would be worried’: Cork farmers on Greens in government

‘What’s happening in Ireland is small cheese compared to somewhere like Brazil’

Farmer Michael Forde at Corrin Mart, Fermoy, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Farmer Michael Forde at Corrin Mart, Fermoy, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

 

John O’Driscoll is bringing 10 cattle to the mart, hoping to make €1,000 or so for each of the 500kg animals he rears as a part-time farmer on his 50-acre holding in Knockraha, east Cork.

Some farmers are unhappy at the influence the Greens could play in the next administration. But the picture was far from clear to judge from Corrin Mart near Fermoy, north Co Cork yesterday, where many farmers were prepared to hold off on a verdict until they know more.

“A 7 per cent reduction in carbon emissions can be achieved. How? Grow more trees, and I wouldn’t be against it,” says O’Driscoll, who has a full-time job ferrying milk from farms to dairies.

However, Michael Hourigan, who has travelled from Oldparish near Ardmore in Co Waterford with his daughter, Annmarie, to sell three cull cows, does worry about the carbon emissions reduction target.

“To be honest, I don’t know how they are going to go about it. I would be worried about it the way things are going,” says Hourigan, who has been told by Glanbia that prices for milk will drop to 28 cent a litre for May.

David Fitzgerald, from nearby Conna, is more optimistic, pointing out that apart from a drop in milk prices, Covid-19 has hit farming less than other quarters .

“There are people a lot worse off than us. Look at people in the hospitality area; their businesses are destroyed,” says Fitzgerald, who is interested to see the final shape of a new Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

BULL'S EYE: A young bull waits before auction at Corrin Mart, Fermoy, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
A young bull waits before auction at Corrin Mart, Fermoy, Co Cork, on Tuesday. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Many farmers like the scheme. “They had excellent schemes for cleaning up farmers yards and streams and what have you. They helped improve the countryside,” says Fitzgerald.

Diesel difficulties

Steve Graham, who milks 60 cows on his Knockraha farm, is also reserving judgment. “It would be difficult for farming. You see us all here with diesels. People are still going to need food, including beef. They’re not all going to become vegetarians.

“We produce beef and milk on grass. We’re good at it, and if we don’t produce them, someone else will and in less environmentally friendly ways. In global terms, our carbon emissions is a small figure.

“The other thing is that we saw during the Covid lockdown when people weren’t commuting and cars were off the road was that the smog cleared up – so why is it always agriculture that is being asked to solve the problem?”

Martina O’Neill from Glanmire, a self-described “green farmer” who once thought of running for the Green Party, argues that “every bit counts” in the battle against climate change, but Ireland is a small player.

“What’s happening here in Ireland is small cheese compared to what is happening in somewhere like Brazil, where they have cut down rainforests half the size of Ireland to graze cattle and produce beef to export into Europe.

“I buy my cattle locally, I get them killed locally, the meat is sold locally. Compare that to the carbon footprint of a Brazilian steak that is sold thousands of miles away in Europe,” she says.

Each year she rears 100 calves, uses no nitrogen and plants trees. “People need to look at what we do well. We’re good at growing grass and good at rearing beef on grass. There needs to be a bit of give on both sides.”