‘Sustainable business model’ for farming is ‘within reach’

A “sustainable business model” both environmentally and economically for farmers is “within reach”, but “strong leadership” is needed to provide “certainty” to the sector.

MEP Sean Kelly told the ICOS bioeconomy workshop in Co Laois on Friday that in order for the industry to meet the ambitious climate targets that are set out, “it is crucial that significant steps are taken” over the course of the next decade to facilitate the required decarbonization.

“That said, carbon removals must take place in such a way as to ensure that industry does not suffer unnecessarily as a result,” Mr Kelly said in an address to the event.

Targets for agriculture to reduce its emissions “must now be accompanied with concrete measures to help farmers actually achieve” these, he added.

“We’re looking at a complete transformation of how we produce and consume if we are to meet the challenge of climate change and everybody must understand this,” Mr Kelly said.

“It is a very fine balance, though.

“A sustainable business model both environmental and in economic terms is within reach, but we need strong leadership from the Government to provide certainty to markets and businesses, and clear details of how the Government will incentivize farmers.”

The development of anaerobic digestion in Ireland was discussed as being a key part of the solution at the ICOS event, with Irish Bioenergy Association chief executive Sean Finan telling the Irish Examiner that he has a “huge role” to play in the bioeconomy.

It is “circular by nature and very, very important in terms of giving value to those resources which might not currently be valued”, he said.

Giving back to farmers

And as a result, Mr Finan said, it meets the importance of “giving back to farmers”.

“If you can get more value out of the resources, then you can return more to the farmer,” he said.

“It helps farm viability, it helps rural development, supply chains, jobs, investment, rural Ireland as a whole.”

“Mobilization” of the sector is very important, Mr Finan said, and “everyone along the supply chain has to benefit” from its development.

“It’s important that support measures that are put in place are designed in a way that helps to give that return,” he said.

“There’s no point in introducing an industry for the sake of introducing an industry if we don’t design it in a way that we ensure everyone gets that return along the supply chain.

“While urgency is required, we have to be careful and ensure that everyone is brought along on that journey and that as a result, the economics are right, the social aspects are right, and the environmental sustainability aspects are right.

“Perfection is important in that everything is got right, but I think mobilization is the priority in terms of getting things up and running.”

Mr Finan said that there is “a lot of talk” about the development of “large-scale” anaerobic digestion biomethane plants, but it has a role to play “at all scales, from small to medium too”, including on-farm.

“I don’t think an industry should be developed in one area at the expense of another,” Mr Finan said.

“The difference is, the funding models are different, the support requirements are different, and the opportunities are different and the climate benefits are different.

“Aim central to all of that are farmers.”

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