Time to convene a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of Agriculture and Food Production in Ireland

04 August 2022
  • Pathway to reduction in emissions must be carried out in consultation with agricultural sector

Labour TD for Cork East Seán Sherlock has called on Government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of Agriculture and food production in Ireland.

Following the foot-dragging by government on agreeing sectoral climate targets, Deputy Sherlock said the reality is a rethink of Ireland’s Agriculture sector needs to happen.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“Labour is very clear that every sector will have to play a fair share in cutting emissions in order to achieve the overall 51% reduction enshrined in our climate legislation. The evidence is clear, the cuts that will have to be made across the Agriculture sector will have to be at the higher end of the scale proposed – closer to 30% than 22%.

“However, this is not an insurmountable challenge and not one that we should fear. Ireland has a proud history and standing up to do the right thing. I know that the agriculture sector is no different.

“In reaching these targets, it can’t be felt by any one sector that the targets are being foisted on them. The cost of living crisis impacts farmers also and we need specific programmes identified to support farm families. I have great sympathy for the many farmers who were told to leverage up, gear up and move into dairy. Many of those farmers have taken on serious debt to increase their output but they’re under serious pressure from banks and coops to meet capital repayments and get their milk proteins to desired levels. One bad silage season and many of these folks are gone to the wall.  We’re already seeing evidence of co-ops providing access to psychological and counselling services because of the pressure that farmers are under.

“We need to have a national conversation on what the future of agriculture would look like. In order to take the next steps together, free of political short-termism, Labour is calling on Government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of Agriculture and Food productions in Ireland.

“Such an assembly could consider everything, from our food strategy to innovative and green ways of farming. Forestry is still the poor relation and we are way off our afforestation targets. Our way of working needs to change and Government has a responsibility to deliver a Just Transition to our farming communities to lower emissions and protect livelihoods. That involves more farmers being paid to sequester carbon. A free market approach will not deliver sustainable agriculture and decent farm incomes. A Citizens’ Assembly must look at how we find solutions to these challenges.

“We need to bring a range of voices together from NGO’s, environment groups, industry, business, agriculture and civil society representative groups. We have seen the benefits of having these hard conversations with each other in the past. We have found pathways to difficult questions. We have reaped the rewards of hearing each other.

“There is only one possible economy in the future. That is an economy that operates on a carbon-neutral basis. As we take the next step in achieving this goal, we need to bring everyone together. A Citizens’ Assembly on the future of Agriculture in Ireland would achieve this for all.”

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