The current model of agriculture in Ireland is broken, farmers are involved in loss-making activities, with many farm incomes largely provided through CAP payments. The farming model is hugely dependent on unsustainable fertiliser and feed imports, with mechanisms such as the nitrates derogation accommodating unsustainable intensification, while facilitating increased environmental pollution. We are in a biodiversity and climate emergency. Almost 50% of our freshwaters are polluted. Farmland bird populations are collapsing, along with pollinator numbers. Rural depopulation and an aging farming cohort is increasingly undermining rural communities, with farming supports such as TAMS leading to increased investment in machinery which further promotes unsustainable intensification and farmer indebtedness. We are a net importer of food energy, and our import-export agricultural model is extremely vulnerable to international market aberrations. Monocultures are favoured, leaving us open to pests and disease and climate change impacts.

Despite this, given the locked-in regime that currently governs agri-strategy in Ireland, An Taisce has concerns that this consultation will fail to acknowledge the failure of its agri-strategies to date.

Indeed, in a recent Farming Independent article Minister Creed outlined his ambition to further expand the intensive agriculture sector, thereby prejudicing this public consultation. If the Minister’s comments were accurately reported, it is a clear indication that this consultation is nothing more than a tick box exercise. This is extremely concerning in a time when we are facing such serious ecological and climate breakdown.

Anything other than a radical shift in focus in the next agri-food strategy to domestic food security within a system of enforced limits on absolute annual and cumulative pollution will be environmentally unjustifiable. In an era of runaway climate and ecosystem breakdown, any anthropogenic practice at a large scale that cannot be justified on economic, environmental or ecological grounds must be questioned.

Download the submission here.