A Fine Gael Senator has claimed that the Irish beef and dairy sectors may “go the way of sugar beet” as leading party figures worry of a backlash to the government’s climate action plans.
Senator Tim Lombard made the comments at a private party meeting which also heard concern about a “Dublin-oriented green agenda”, according to the Irish Times.
The Irish sugar beet industry, which was an important and profitable sector for rural Ireland, was effectively closed by the EU’s move to deregulate the industry and impose quotas.
Now dairy and beef farmers are angry and concerned that they may be forced to cut their herd as part of an imposed climate plan which they see as being anti-farmer and anti-rural.
This week, Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan said that the recommendations on carbon budgets put forward by the Climate Change Advisory Council to the Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan would generate a “rural revolution akin to the protests on water charges that took place from 2014-2017”.
Her comments came as a former Fine Gael Minister also warned of a “big backlash” against the Government’s climate action plans from voters in rural constituencies.
Beef and dairy farmers have called for “an end to divisive, unhelpful and damaging public debate on climate change and agriculture”.
The dairy industry and farming representative organisations previously issued a united statement – which included Dairy Industry Ireland; Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS); Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA); Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); and Macra na Feirme – warning against unfair actions against farmers.
They pointed out that “the Irish dairy sector was restricted for over 30 years due to the imposition of EU milk quotas from 1984 to 2015. Dairy cow numbers in 2020 have just reached dairy cow numbers in 1984 when EU milk quotas were introduced. The recent expansion of dairy production has reduced the carbon footprint of Irish milk and through the adoption of the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) measures, a further sustained reduction in the carbon footprint of the Irish dairy sector will be achieved.”
Farmers are also angry that, despite the focus on the carbon footprint of agriculture, the EU-Mercosur deal in 2019 allowed for the import of 99,000 tonnes of South American beef into the European market annually