Economic sustainability for Irish farmers and producers is as important as environmental and social sustainability, according to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) Martin Heydon.
But speaking at an event to highlight solutions and innovations in the agri-food industry today (Friday, September 1) Minister Heydon warned that there are key challenges that must be met and trends to be reversed.
He also acknowledged that there are “a lot of challenges” for farmers and the agri-food industry to address at this time.
Minister Heydon said these not only included reducing the emission profile for agriculture and addressing water quality but also ensuring that there is a robust income for “the hundreds and thousands of people that make a living” from producing, safe, nutritious food in Ireland.
The minister also warned that some farmers, particularly those in beef and sheep farming, were not currently getting the income that they needed and he said if these farmers were “in the red” then they cannot meet the environment asks.
“It is a big challenge to make sure that the economic return is there, the next 10 years is all about safe, nutritious, trustworthy food that is ethically produced.
“We are in a really strong position to build on that but we have to make sure that we get that return back for our farmers, so that they are economically viable and are able to farm more environmentally friendly,” Minister Heydon added.
Today’s event at the University College Dublin (UCD) Lyons Farm in Co. Kildare examined the challenges facing the agri-food sector, producers and farmers and also explored potential solutions and innovations.
A number of academic and industry leaders highlighted at the event, supported by the British Embassy Dublin, how farmers were innovative and willing to embrace new approaches to key challenges such as including multi-species swards instead of grass only swards because they need less fertilize and can improve soil quality.
Minister Heydon believes it is crucial that the “general consumer” hears more about the positive practices that farmers have adopted and how they are making a difference.
He also said that it is important to ‘get the general public back proud of Irish agriculture and farmers again’ and that there’s been a failure in telling ‘non-farmers’ about the science and innovation behind food production in Ireland.