Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD emphasised the need for ongoing support for the Ukrainian agriculture sector, as well as for continued close monitoring of the impacts of the Russian invasion on European markets and supply chains.
Speaking ahead of today’s meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels, Minister McConalogue said: “The impact of the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine on the country itself and on its citizens is the primary consideration. As agriculture Ministers, we are keenly aware of the particularly serious impact of the invasion on the Ukrainian agriculture sector, and the knock-on effects on Ukrainian citizens. European initiatives such as direct aid, Solidarity Lanes and the Black Sea Initiative should therefore be maintained and added to where possible.”
Referring to the situation on European markets, the Minister continued: “Similarly, the European agriculture sector continues to be impacted on a wide scale, with all Member States and all sectors being affected in different ways. For Ireland, the supply of feed and fertiliser is something we need to watch especially carefully. I welcome the Commission’s recent communication on fertiliser and I will inform the Council today that I am eager to hear more about the next steps.”
Minister McConalogue also sounded a note of caution regarding calls from some Member States for the deployment of the agricultural reserve. He said: “I am open to considering proposals. However, we are at the start of the year and the funds in the reserve are limited.
“We should also consider whether the reserve is the appropriate tool to deal with what may be more long-term and structural change.”
Commenting on other items on the Council’s agenda, the Minister referred firstly to the proposed revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive.
The Minister said Ireland’s largely grass-based production system should be considered when progressing the revision of the Directive.
“The setting of thresholds is a critically important point. In my view we should not be regulating family farms – which are typically of modest scale and pasture-based – in the same manner as we do industrial-scale enterprises. All other considerations should flow from this principle.
“That means that we must strike the right balance between the delivery of environmental and health improvements by reducing ammonia and methane emissions – which we all want – and the imposition of administrative and cost burdens on farms which are generally based on family labour, or with limited external labour. We must also take full account of the specificities of pasture-based systems, with animals outdoors for much of the year.”
The Minister also outlined his view on the planned discussion on the potential opportunities available to farmers arising from the development of the bioeconomy.
He said: “The bioeconomy can offer us solutions to many of the biggest challenges facing Member States at this time, including the need to reduce reliance on fossil-based inputs, the need to support the diversification of agriculture and decarbonise the sector, and to provide additional income streams for farmers. Ireland sees significant opportunities to displace fossil-based fertilisers, peat, and imported feed with local, renewable, biobased alternatives that have proven environment and climate benefits.”
Minister McConalogue also referred to the planned discussion on the revision of animal transport legislation. Highlighting the importance of this issue for Ireland, the Minister noted: “Ireland strongly supports the revision of European rules on animal welfare during transport and calls on the Commission to provide a comprehensive impact assessment in conjunction with its proposal.
“The primary objective of the revision of the legislation should be the continued facilitation of high-welfare intra-community trade and export of live animals. Our new rules must be firmly based on scientific and technical knowledge.”
Minister McConalogue noted that Ireland had already introduced national legislation that exceeds European standards, saying: “We should draw on the experiences and good practices of Member States in implementing and enforcing the current legislation. In this regard, Ireland has introduced national legislation that goes beyond the minimum laid down in existing EU rules.”