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Farmers must be at the centre of EU Sustainability Plans – MEP Kelly

Published: Thu, 21 May 2020

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MEP for Ireland South and Fine Gael’s leader in the European Parliament, Sean Kelly, has expressed his concerns about today’s proposals from the European Commission on the Biodiversity and Farm-to-Fork Strategies.

Speaking from Killarney today (Wednesday) following the announcements, Mr. Kelly acknowledged that while the strategies were important in setting out how agriculture and land-use will contribute to the European Green Deal and achieving a climate-neutral economy by 2050, there was a need to better align the proposals with what can realistically be achieved by farmers.

“I welcome these long-awaited proposals, and acknowledge that there are many positive elements included in the Commission’s announcements today. However there is no doubt that many of the proposals set out are concerning. There is a big need to ensure that farmers are centre of this strategy, given they are the ones that will be tasked with achieving its goals – this doesn’t currently seem to be the case.

“The Commission’s language on meat and moving to more plant-based diets is particularly eye-catching. I don’t think this is something that should be included in an official Commission Communication, and I think Vice-President Timmermans needs to clarify this point, particularly given meat is very much considered to be part of a balanced diet by health experts, including our own HSE.

“I do welcome, however, that the Commission will aim to promote and support the most sustainable, carbon-efficient methods of livestock production. This is a big opportunity for Ireland to ensure that our grass-based, sustainable system is given due recognition; a call that has fallen on deaf ears at EU level for a number of years.

“Furthermore, while I commend the Commission’s ambition on developing organic farming, which can certainly offer important opportunities to many farmers, converting a quarter of European farming to organic by 2030 seems to be extremely unrealistic, and ignores the fact that this is not a viable option for all farmers.

“Finally, regarding biodiversity, I am particularly concerned about the proposal that 10% of agricultural land should consist of high-diversity landscape features, such as hedges or flower strips by 2030. This would constitute a significant proportion of our farmers’ land and would certainly impact upon already stretched incomes and profit margins. We have to make sure that these actions are realistic and implementable at farm level.

“It is clear there is a lot of work ahead on these issues, but one thing is certain: our climate and environmental objectives must go hand-in-hand with the protection of livelihoods and rural communities, and supporting our farmers adequately through the various transitions that are ahead.

“For this reason, I urge my MEP colleagues and all EU governments to properly consult their farmers about these strategies put forward today. Nothing will be achieved on this without the support of farmers, so now is the time to put them at the centre of our work”, concluded MEP Kelly.

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