Critics say new 10-year food plan lacks detail, ambition and funding

THE 10-year plan for the country’s farming and food sector has come in for more criticism with environmental groups saying it is “wholly inadequate” and farmers complaining it lacks detail and funding pledges.

ood Vision 2030, a strategy drawn up by a committee of 30 state agencies, industry bodies and farming organisations, aims to increase food output and exports while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of more than 30 groups which had a place on the committee up to last February when it pulled out of the process, said the concerns they felt at the time were borne out by the final report.

Karen Cielsielski, who represented the pillar on the committee, said the strategy pursued a “destructive business as usual approach” with multiple shortcomings in how it addressed climate, biodiversity, water and air quality

“We have been presented with an industry-led and dominated blueprint for agriculture that fails to address the multiple crises we face,” she said.

The strategy contains the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, but its 2030 targets include a 10pc reduction in methane emissions from livestock without proposing a cut in herd numbers.

It also targets a 50pc increase in export values over the same period.

Much emphasis is placed on finding more efficient ways of land management to help retain carbon in the soil, new feed additives to reduce methane formation and a switch to on-farm renewable energy systems.

“It is littered with references to far-off action and yet-to-fully-be-materialised innovation,” the pillar said.

Of key concern to farming groups is the lack of detail in how the objectives are to be achieved or funded.

Tim Cullinan, president of the Irish Farmers Association, said: “These plans are being announced with lofty targets, but no proper assessment of how these targets will impact farm incomes, food production or global food security has been conducted.

“Until the Government sets out its plans to fund it, this strategy will ring hollow.”

The dairy farmers group, ICMSA, said that the output and export targets were achievable but only if consumers accepted that the extra cost of producing sustainably would raise prices.

“There is a fundamental and disqualifying incoherence at the heart of Ireland’s drive to greater food and climate sustainability,” said president Pat McCormack.

“We want to get there but our governments seem afraid to break the news that we are all, including the consumer, going to have to pay the real costs involved.

“This lack of clarity is going to undermine that intent and ambition of strategies like Food Vision 2030.”

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue insisted the strategy would ensure farming and food producers achieved economic, social and environmental sustainability.

“It lays out a very solid platform for how we can continue to produce top class, healthy, safe food but do so in a way that reduces the carbon footprint of that food and facilitates farmers to continue to take a leadership role in relation to addressing the biodiversity challenges so that overall the food we produce is done in way that actually enhances the environment,” he said

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