Hundreds of millions for agriculture – but Green leader insists national herd must be downsized

‘Far more for forestry with smaller, less intensively operated farms.’

Sligo News File.

Reports that the government is proposing to pump hundreds of millions of euros into farming will come as welcome news to the sector.

According to accounts, plans for the investment or allocation are already being worked on by the Department of Agriculture.

However, many will wonder if the intended bonanza is for the purpose of expanding the industry or is actually ‘compensation’ for among other things a downsizing of the national herd being demanded by green supremo, the Minister for Transport Eamonn Ryan.

While newly arrived Fianna Fail Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConologue has gone on record to publicly register his objection to any reduction in the livestock population, saying there is no justification for it, Ryan, on the other hand, is reportedly adamant that the herd has to be reduced if Ireland’s carbon emission targets are to be met.

Interviewed by the Irish Times, Ryan is said to have dismissed McConologue’s recently produced plan as an “old one” which will be superseded next year by a plan that will result in a smaller herd.

He is quoted as saying: “We have to double the ambition. Agriculture can’t be absolved and cannot be an opt-out….” The statement further reads that “we are going to do significantly more and Charlie McConologue knows that. The idea of pumping up the volume and massive expansion of the herd makes no sense.

“It does make sense to move to a less intensive system of farming and have a smaller herd.”

Farmers will get paid for the ecological services they provide in the future. 

If there are smaller, less-intensively operated farms, then there will also be far more forestry.

As well, he is said to have declared that some 140,000 hectares of bog throughout the State will be re-wetted within a decade, this being done by removing the drains. They will become a carbon sink. Work on this has already begun.

Meanwhile, McConologue is understood to be self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19