Reflecting on the role of environmentalism within Irish agriculture from an EU perspective.
Last Monday, I met with European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, during his visit to an organic farm in North Dublin.
When speaking with the Commissioner, I reminded him of something he said some months ago and I told him that it struck a chord with me "My vision is that agriculture is not industry, agricultural land is not a factory and animals are not machines".
I also attended the European Green event ‘Beyond Stockholm +50: No more time to waste’ in Karlstad last week. I gave a key note address on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) and shared the stage with Pär Holmgren, Swedish MEP.
Many European Greens consider that, despite the European Green Deal and subsequent Farm to Fork Strategy, the revision of the EU’s CAP still heavily subsidises agriculture that doesn’t deliver for nature. While I understand this perspective and share concerns, I am very hopeful that in the Irish context we will deliver the most nature friendly CAP to date, and that Irish farmers will benefit.
The new CAP, the final drafting of which Commissioner Wojciechowski will oversee, is of course, first and foremost an agricultural policy, not an environmental one. Yet the two must overlap. It is hugely significant that half of the EU climate spend is to be funnelled through the reformed CAP. It shows that the policy must deliver for climate action.
I took the opportunity in Karlstad to highlight all those Irish farmers who are embracing their role in climate action and in building resilience. We have seen such enthusiastic response to schemes on mixed and clover swards, on organics, on soil health and biodiversity. Change is happening at grassroots level. I believe it has been happening quietly for many years but now farmers are able to talk openly about it.
We know that one size does not fit all, that’s why building on the experience of projects that take a landscape-level, locally-led approach, is the best route forward for biodiversity and climate resilience responses. I will continue to champion this approach.
Former Swedish Deputy Prime Minister, Isabella Lovin also spoke at the European Greens event saying ‘Let’s talk about what we need to do! Let’s put environment at the very core of decisions’.
This struck a chord with me. I brought this approach to my role as Minister - I said it early, and I say it often, and there is no doubt that I can see where thinking is changing at a Departmental level. I will continue to press on because we have no time and no choice.