Agricultural groups suggest easing environmental obligations and measures that will help farmers cope with cost pressures and supply shortages following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, new meeting notes show.
Proposals included removing the carbon tax on fuel and a reduction in Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environmental Plan (GLAS) commitments – where farms can help combat climate change by protecting habitats and engaging in eco-friendly agricultural practices. To receive payment.
There were also suggestions about calls for changes to EU rules about greening and leaving land fallow, with some groups suggesting it could be used if there were concerns about potential product shortages.
The calls were made earlier this year in a series of meetings between agricultural groups, the Department of Agriculture and the food development authority Teagask.
The meetings were held after the National Fodder and Food Security Committee was set up in March to develop contingency plans and advisories to help farmers cope with inflation and supply pressures. This came after the outbreak of war in Ukraine gave rise to fears of a global shortage of vital materials, fuel, fertilisers, seeds and feed.
Minutes of meetings obtained under Freedom of Information show that a significant number of changes were proposed to relieve cost pressures on farms. At the committee’s first meeting in March, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan suggested that diesel availability would be critical in the coming months as farms prepare for a busy summer.
The notes stated that he “must see the suspension of the carbon tax be applicable to both farmers and contractors”. He was also recorded as telling the committee: “EU regulations around greenery and fallow areas should be reviewed to make land available for crops.”
While committee members emphasized that there was no concern about potential food shortages, some attendees suggested that we should be prepared to grow more produce.
Mr Cullinan said at the meeting that there was an opportunity for the EU to review its position on genetically modified crops and technology (currently opposed within the Union) “to provide opportunities for both import and production”. “Only a few farmers can increase their production or change their method of farming”, he said.
“Farmers need incentives to grow more crops” because “farmers need to know that the end user will step in and guarantee a market and payment”, he said.
The European Union has strict regulations regarding the use of genetically modified crops and a new public consultation is underway regarding the legal framework for the use of such plants. However, the main objective of the study is to ensure that consumer safety is maintained.
Mr Cullinan also told the committee that “the state and industry need to contribute to the challenge” arising from the looming crisis around cost and material availability. His environmental suggestions were echoed by others.
Michael Moroni, chief executive of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland, also called for the removal of the carbon tax.
Dermot Kelleher, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association, said: “There is a need to relax GLAS measures to convert good land to plowing and accelerate crop production”.
IFA Grain Committee chair Kieran McAvoy said land used for wild bird cover “needs to be looked at” but realistic goals were needed because not all land is viable for good grain crops.