Sustainable suckler farming cannot be the scapegoat on Climate action

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have cautioned against proposals for any further reduction in our suckler herd. Speaking on this National President Vincent Roddy stated “how Government imposed targets to deliver a reduction in our overall emissions and specifically a 22% to 30% reduction in agriculture must not involve further reductions to our suckler sector.”

This sector has, he added, “seen a significant reduction over the last ten years with numbers falling by 160,000 cows, from 1,067,398 in 2012 to 907,059 in 2021, which represents a 15% fall in our overall herd.”

While this reduction has been off-set by increases in other sectors of agriculture it is stressed the INHFA President “absolutely unacceptable that there would be any further reductions demanded here. However, what is even more disturbing are proposals made by some commentators, that our suckler sector should be sacrificed, to allow further expansion of the dairy sector.”

When assessing our farming systems and their impact with regard to GHG emissions. The vast majority of our suckler farmers are, maintained Roddy “operating an extensive farming system that enables the sequestration of carbon, a fact that has also been confirmed in an EU Report titled, Grazing for Carbon.”

These farmers are, he stated “delivering for both the environment and the economy and must be supported. Those same suckler farmers contribute €2.9 billion and 52,000 full-time jobs to our local economy, as highlighted in a study done by Prof Michael Wallace. This naturally reared beef is a product that can deliver a premium price. The challenge is for our State, the Beef Processors and Board Bia to develop the markets that can deliver this price. Ultimately what we need is the same ambition and drive applied here as has been applied in promoting our dairy products.”

With ambition such as this, we can, stress the INHFA Leader “ensure a thriving suckler industry, that is a unique product, and is delivering in terms of carbon sequestration and improved biodiversity and is rewarded in the marketplace for those reasons.”
“For the Government, NGO’s or anyone else serious about delivering for the environment. What better way is there of encouraging our farmers than recognising and paying for an environmental product, delivered through sustainable agriculture” stated Roddy.

Concluding, the INHFA President challenged those that continue to push for reduction in our suckler herd and stressed “the need to move past this lazy narrative and recognise the massive potential our suckler sector has in terms of environmental and economic benefit.”