Agriculture, Food and the Marine | Avoiding a food production shortage and reduction while meeting emission targets and without sacrificing agricultural lands
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to be confident that a food production shortage/reduction can be avoided while at the same time meeting emission targets as already set out; if he is satisfied that productive agricultural lands will not be sacrificed to meet such targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ireland is one of the most food secure countries in the world. In fact, Ireland has come second of 113 countries assessed for food security, according to the latest Global Food Security Index.
The issue of maintaining food production has been the subject of much discussion in the context of the Government’s economy-wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030. My position has been consistent- each sector, including agriculture, will need to play its part to achieve this target.
In the Agriculture chapter of the Climate Action Plan 2023, I have proposed measures around three themes: inputs and additives, husbandry practices, and diversification. In practical terms, the types of actions that the sector is undertaking include reducing chemical nitrogen usage and changing fertiliser type, providing voluntary diversification options for farmers, while also improving the environmental dividend from our farmed land. Each of these measures will be supported by a range of actions, setting out a viable pathway towards reaching our targets.
There is no doubt that some livestock farmers will take up diversification options that are provided as part of our climate transformation. However, given the efficiency gains that continue to be made at farm level, I remain confident that there is no risk to food security, even if some farmers choose to diversify.
Indeed, one of the key areas available to farmers to diversify into is tillage through which we will exploit the opportunity for import substitution of cereals and proteins adding to the sustainability of Irish produced feed and further opportunities for sustainable food production.
We have seen the key role the Economic Breeding Index has played in dairy production over the last decade. I am keen to explore how we can, with the necessary commitment of all stakeholders, extend the work we have already done to improve the genetic profile of the herd in recent years.
My ultimate aim is to future proof our beef and dairy sector for the benefit of our industry, the environment and our farm families who are the backbone of the sector and rural communities. Ireland’s agri-food sector will continue to be underpinned by our world class dairy and beef sectors, and it is critical that we work collectively to achieve these multiple objectives.
Regarding the Land Use and Land Use Change sector, Ireland’s land is currently a net source of emissions. My priority is to ensure that we continue to make progress with respect to reducing emissions both from reducing the management intensity on our organic soils and through achieving our afforestation rates and promoting forest management initiatives. Ireland cannot achieve climate neutrality without the land use sector making changes over the decades ahead. Change is not easy and does not come overnight. Our recently launched country-wide network of Teagasc supported Signpost Farms will showcase how best practice management techniques can be adopted on a wide range of enterprises and soil types.
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