May brought a number of developments in the realm of Irish agriculture. Notably Simon Coveney has been lobbying the European community to give agricultural ministers more of a say in decision making with regard to European climate change legislation and the national government have commenced the final period of public consultation for the new Rural Development Programme (RDP).

An Taisce’s agriculture office have been following and engaging with these developments. Indeed, we will be making a submission on the final RDP consultation. The document up for review is lengthy and details the SWOT analysis undertaken by the government over the past year and a half and has informed the RDP in its current form. Of most concern at this stage is the inclusion of the Food Harvest 2020 (FH2020) programme as a key driver much of what the government plans to do in terms of agri-environment schemes. As such, the government are supporting one programme (FH2020) that will damage Ireland’s environment with the profits going to large dairy processors, while the publicly funded RDP will be used to mitigate against the worst impacts of this development. On our initial reading then it seems that the overall logic is in complete opposition to the “polluter pays” principle.

Also on FH2020, Jack McCarthy of An Taisce’s agricultural office gave a presentation on this subject as part of a panel discussion held by the North Tipperary local association on the 10 th of May. The evening included presentations from Dr. Lance O’Brien of Teagasc and Dr. Oliver Moore of Arc2020 with a lively discussion afterwards on the merits and pitfalls of FH2020.

An Taisce have been quite critical of the government’s FH2020 plan. In particular we have expressed concern at the target for a 50% expansion in the volume of milk produced in Ireland. We have, however, also been trying to find alternative solutions that will provide a viable livelihood for farmers while also protecting the environment. The more that we research agro-forestry the more it seems to fulfil both of these needs. If any of our members have encountered solutions, agro-forestry or otherwise, that may present a viable alternative to the expansionist drive of the government we would be very keen to hear about it.

On that note, and given the successful exchange of ideas that occurred in the North Tipperary event on the 10 th of May, we would like to encourage everyone involved with An Taisce to continue to engage with us here at HQ on agricultural issues. It is very valuable to get anecdotal feedback as this can help us to understand the effect policies are having on the ground and will inform the policy recommendations we make to the government. You can contact the agriculture office directly by emailing [email protected] or calling (01) 7077063.

In other news, Jack McCarthy attended a meeting of the European Environmental Bureau Agricultural Working Group in Athens. The meeting focused on the greening of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and attendees developed ideas on how NGOs can still make a positive impact in terms of national implementation of the new CAP. To give a brief update on significant dates then, national governments are required to submit their respective RDPs by the 22 nd of June, their plans for implementing greening by the 1 st of August, and their plans for including non-Natura 2000 grasslands by the 15 th of December. An Taisce will be making recommendations to the government with these dates in mind.