Ryan urges farmers to ignore ‘scare stories’ about Greens

Agriculture Minister accuses Green party leader of doing a ‘disservice’ to rural communities

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said  Ireland could go to international markets and say ‘this meat, dairy or other product [is] genuinely origin green’ if measures to deliver greater biodiversity were introduced.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Ireland could go to international markets and say ‘this meat, dairy or other product [is] genuinely origin green’ if measures to deliver greater biodiversity were introduced. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he “fundamentally disagrees” with claims his party will be bad for farmers as Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed accused him of doing a “disservice” to farmers over their efforts on biodiversity.

The spat in the Dáil came as Mr Ryan moved to re-assure farmers that his party would be good for agriculture and rural communities.

He made recommendations on achieving greater biodiversity to provide beef and other products that were genuinely “origin green”.

But Mr Creed said the Green party leader did a disservice to the “enormous efforts of farmers” who had been on a journey to origin green “for many, many years” .

The Minister said “the world did not begin on February 9th [when 12 Green TDs were elected] or any time recently on all of this”.

Mr Creed said “what farmers sometimes bristle at is the lack of recognition that they have been working at this long before it became politically popular to talk about”.

They were speaking during a day-long debate on climate change and the national transition plan as it affects the Departments of Climate Change, Agriculture, Housing and Transport.

Mr Ryan said that “people are very worried because people have been presented with all sorts of scare stories: the Greens will be bad for rural Ireland, bad for farming, bad for beef, bad for dairy. I fundamentally disagree”.

Mr Ryan said “it is not about telling the farmer how to use the land because they have the best knowledge of what they do on their land”.

He spoke about moving from “nitrogen-pumped grass systems” to mixed grasses which could result in a better return for the farmer, lower nitrogen use and better animal health.

Ireland could go to international markets and say “this meat, dairy or other product” is “genuinely origin green because it is from a much more diverse, secure system”.

Landscape management

But Mr Creed said that “long before the current debate around targets began, farmers were acutely aware of their role in landscape management and sustainable agricultural product, and were in many ways indicative of what was needed in the international marketplace”.

He added that over 50,000 farmers’ holdings had been audited to ensure they were origin green and that about 260,000 hectares “are under low-input permanent pasture”.

Labour agriculture spokesman Sean Sherlock earlier said research suggested a reduction in the national herd would be needed to meet the 7 per cent carbon emission target and there would be a lot of “worried people in rural Ireland” if a new programme for government meant a policy for a “drastic reduction in the national herd”.

But Minister for Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton said he had never heard any party indicate that “it plans to set targets for a reduction of the national herd”.

He said Teagasc had shown that “immense opportunities” exist in farming methods, where a 3 metric tonnes reduction in emissions could be delivered, and in land use.

Earlier Rise TD Paul Murphy claimed the Green Party would be a “mudguard” for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s “neoliberal and austerity policies” if it goes into government with the two larger organisations.

Appealing to the Greens, who are in the final stages of coalition formation talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Mr Murphy said the Green Party would be blamed for every austerity measure introduced under the guise of being “about the environment”.

If they go into government “it will represent a substantial setback for the environmental movement” and not bring things any closer to the radical change needed to move to a zero carbon economy, he said.

Mr Bruton told the Dáil the State faced fines estimated at between €6 million and €13 million for breaching emissions targets.

The final figure for the fines will only be known at the end of the year, but the Minister said that the shutdown of the economy meant it will “certainly be less” than €13 million.

He added that if nothing was done the State would be 58 million tonnes off target on emissions by the end of the decade. The current climate action plan aims for a 3.5 per cent reduction in emissions per year on average.

Detailed modelling had been done by the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue, while State agency Teagasc “has done enormous work in agriculture”, Mr Bruton added.