Environmentally Sustainable Farming

Against the prospect of a Greener Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Europe and Ireland in the future, the Teagasc Agri-Environmental conference took place in Athlone, Thursday, 10 November. Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle stressed the importance of today’s discussions in light of an expanding agriculture in Ireland and the current proposals to reform the CAP.

He said that it’s important that farmers and the agricultural sector engage with the environmental issues being discussed at the conference. “We have had an era where the agenda has been set by regulation. This has shifted somewhat and farmers are now more aware of the potential negative and positive impacts on the environment and are keen to achieve the best outcomes. Retailers and consumers are demanding food that is produced in an environmentally sustainable manner.”

In the keynote address to the Teagasc Agri-Environment conference, Mairead McGuinness, MEP said; ”The proposed reform of the CAP post 2014 will intensify the integration of environmental requirements for farmers with ‘greening’ of first pillar payments requiring all farmers to do more for the environment. For agriculture, a focus on resource efficiency will help to ensure that the agriculture of the future is strong and sustainable. Farmers will increasingly be required to adopt and maintain farming systems and practices that are particularly favourable to environmental and climate objectives. “

Pat Murphy, Head of Environment Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc, presented an environmental perspective on achieving the Food Harvest 2020 targets.

He concluded that Ireland’s environmental status relative to our EU partners is relatively good and supports the ‘green’ image of Irish food. However he warned that environmental concerns pose significant risks to the achievement of the targets set in Food Harvest 2020. He said these risks need to be carefully managed over the next few years by farmers, advisers, researchers and policy makers to ensure the targets are met. Maintaining and capitalising on Ireland’s green credentials requires that we can verify very high levels of achievement across a broad range of sustainability criteria.

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