The Green Party has ditched its proposal for cuts to herd sizes, but has called into question the future of the nitrates’ derogation.
The party, which could play a key role in the formation of the next Government, has also committed to implementing a food policy which will see children encouraged in school to reduce meat consumption.
The Greens updated their agriculture policy late last year and speaking to the Farming Independent this week, its agriculture spokesperson Pippa Hackett stressed that farmers have nothing to fear from the Greens being in government.
“I think farmers should welcome the Green Party in government, especially if they can get rural Greens in there,” she said.
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The suckler and sheep farmer from Offaly said the Greens would put farmers at the centre of its policies.
But she confirmed her party would look closely at the Nitrates Directive.
“It’s something that certainly needs closer inspection and probably removal. It’s supposed to be there to protect water,” she said but claimed most farmers who avail of it view it as means of carrying more stock.
“That is not what it’s about — it is there to protect water. Everyone needs water, and our water is getting worse.”
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On live exports, she said “the argument you hear is that it is there to stabilise the market and it puts a floor on it, but last year we exported more cattle than ever — and look where the price is.
“It’s a blight on the country as a whole.”
The Greens will also seek a scaling back on the Foodwise 2025 targets for the dairy and beef sectors.
“Farmers need to embrace some sort of transition at least at this stage,” said Hackett.
“It’s not an anti-beef or cow thing, but financially it’s not paying. Even the top beef farmers are losing money, and dairy farmers have to work enormous hours to eke out a living.
“The bottom line on the Green Party’s vision for agriculture is that we have to embrace nature in everything that we do rather than trying to manipulate it.”
Hackett confirmed that the Green Party had dropped its plans to introduce a voluntary and targeted reduction in herd sizes across the dairy and meat sector.
She said the Greens had moved to a ‘less but better’ approach and removed the herd reduction policy because if farmers improve the quality of what they are doing to a higher standard, a reduction in herd sizes will ‘invariably happen’.
Greens’ agriculture manifesto will make thousands of farms unviable – ICMSA
Responding to Hackett’s comments on the nitrates derogation, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said farmers will despair that the Greens could be so glib and careless of the proposal’s enormous significance.
“Have the Green Party actually looked at the consequences of this proposal? Do they realise that it makes about 12,000 farms potentially unviable at a stroke?
“That means the end of our dairy sector as we know it and that means the end of the biggest indigenous economic activity in Munster, south Leinster and all over Ireland,” he said.
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