Green Farmers

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Amy Nora Fitzgibbon’s article in the Farmer’s Journal covers the Green Party agriculture manifesto, copied below:

Among the range of agricultural policies in its manifesto for the 2016 general election, the Green Party has endorsed finishing young bull beef and veal production at home.
The Green Party launched its manifesto for the 2016 general election on Friday 12 February in Dublin. The manifesto devotes a page and a half to agriculture and almost a page to forestry in the document.

The party, led by Dublin Bay South candidate Eamon Ryan, says it recognises that agri-food is Ireland’s “largest indigenous industry” and the “main economic driver” in many rural areas.

One of the Green Party’s proposed policies for the sector is supporting methods of adding value to beef production, such as finishing young bull beef and veal production at home. The party says this policy can add value in the region of €300m and reduce live exports.

It also wants to support the “generally extensive, grass-based nature of cattle, sheep and goat production in Ireland” and ensure this nature of production is not compromised by the planned increase in production under the revised Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

It also wants to make it easier for young farmers to acquire land by “encouraging access schemes” for young farmers who do not have title to their own land.

Link to environmental impact

As would be expected of the Green Party’s manifesto, many of the agricultural policies are crafted with a view to their potential impact on the environment.

For example, the party wants to encourage farmers to move to “polycultural grazing systems which reduce carbon emissions and help pollinators”.

It also promises to promote organic farming to achieve a target of 5% of land in organic agriculture by 2021. Ireland currently farms 2% of land organically.

Forestry

On forestry, the party is also looking for a “massive increase in afforestation consisting of native and continuous cover woodlands to help offset carbon emissions”. Only 10% of land in Ireland is under forestry, which, according to the party, means Ireland has the second-lowest proportional percentage of forestry of any country in Europe.

Linking its policies on forestry to flooding, the party says it supports the planting of broadleaf forestry and willow for coppicing (cutting back a tree or shrub to ground level periodically to stimulate growth).

Still on flooding, the party also proposes to alter the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environmental Scheme (GLAS) to fund local projects to give revenue to farmers to future-proof their lands from degradation.

Comment

Commenting on the manifesto and its clear emphasis on tackling climate change, leader Eamon Ryan said any plan that does not have “climate as a foundation stone is a plan that is bound to fail”.

“It cannot do otherwise, as it will wilfully ignore the clear and signposted dangers ahead,” he said. “Any plan that relies on fossil fuels as the driver of an economy will see us falling behind, as the rest of the world switches to a cleaner renewable future. Any plan that thinks Ireland can set the course of our own destiny without an appreciation of global trends is fraught with risk.”

Ryan added that the party’s plan focuses on “what we can do best at home”, which includes agri-food alongside tourism, manufacturing and new digital services.

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