From my speech in the SEANAD 30/05/2023, see link to full speech below.
The climate and biodiversity crises have plunged us into a significant time of change – for every aspect of our lives.
Some of us want to embrace this challenge and see the value in making changes in how we consume, how we travel, and in how we farm.
Change requires us all to accept new information and different ways of doing things. It also requires us to recognise bad advice and bad practice, and to be brave enough to call it out.
Irish agriculture has a massive challenge ahead. And while we are making progress in so many ways, we have still some way to go.
Productive farming of the future will be about more than just food production. It will require that food is produced in a way that improves water quality, restores biodiversity, cleans our air, and reduces our emissions. Embracing system change is essential, because tinkering around the edges will not suffice.
Indeed, how we use and manage our land has been subject to much debate, and this has certainly heated up in recent weeks with increased focus on the EU’s Nature Restoration Law.
While details are far from complete, and more work is needed on data and how the emissions factors are arrived at; it has sadly opened up the old fault lines of environmentalists versus farmers, with both camps back in their well-worn trenches, and real and meaningful progress stalled - yet again.
The part of the job I really love is getting out of the office, away from all that noise, and out on the ground - visiting farms across the country and meeting the farmers who are doing things differently. Farmers who are way ahead of the curve.
Whether it is understanding what real soil health and fertility is – way beyond its chemical components, but the very biological life within.
Or realising that our simplistic grass model is not resilient to our changing climate, and that multi-species swards, with a diversity of root depth and plant types, enable pastures to thrive without
the need for expensive fertiliser.
Or that min and zero-till arable systems work to save money and help protect vital soil biodiversity - in a way many farmers would not believe until they see it for themselves.
Doing nothing is not an option. Yet some would be quite content to do just that. You know you are in trouble when mainstream farming publications see going organic as a threat; when farm organisations turn a blind eye to environmental destruction; or when parliamentary parties take advice, to scare consumers and farmers, that being environmentally responsible will drive up the price of food, and the price of land. This sort of nonsense needs to be called out.
So we need less of the divisive exaggeration, less of the scaremongering, and much more of a solutions focussed approach – examples of which we have all over the country.