Sector requires long-term vision and brave strategies rather than a ‘here and now’ plan

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There was much debate on social media in the past few days over how many thousand people marched in the capital over the cost of living.

he march came just after 277,000 people, mainly from rural Ireland, descended over the three days of the National Ploughing Championships.

The atmosphere may have been more positive at the Ploughing, but the cost of living was nonetheless a hot topic for discussion.

For many in rural Ireland the surge in the cost of living has been worse than in urban areas, with the IFA estimating that agricultural inflation is running at 40pc year on year.

The price of diesel may have dropped to below 1.80c per litre in many parts of rural Ireland, easing a recent price pressure and yesterday the Government extended the current excise reduction as it laid out its ‘here-and-now’ Budget for 2023.

And the farming measures in yesterday’s Budget were nothing more than ‘here and now’ solutions when the sector really needs long-term vision and brave strategies.

The familiar rollover of schemes was welcomed by farming organisations, while there is to be a repeat of the recently announced Fodder Support Scheme, introduced to ensure farmers have enough feed stocks in light of the knock-on impact of the war in Ukraine.

Funding for a new Fodder Support Scheme will pay farmers up to €1,000 to save hay and fodder in 2023 – a move that will be welcomed by farmers, who can look forward to a cash injection this side of Christmas.

A new suckler scheme with a similar level of funding to the €28m Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme for sucklers was also announced, but details remain scant, while the funding of 30,000 places in an Agri-climate Rural Environmental Scheme for 2023 actually means as many as 20,000 farms won’t have an environmental scheme open to them.

Similarly, an enhanced multi-species sward/red clover scheme is just rolling over measures already in place.

However, the introduction of an €8m grant-aid scheme to support the spreading of lime will be welcomed and comes on the back of concerns over soil fertility on many farms.

We will all gladly receive a little extra cash in our pockets, but with the agriculture sector’s emissions reduction targets looming on the horizon, many would have expected greater detail of what funding will be provided to help farmers make the transformation the Government is seeking.

While an extra €20m to fund research on climate solutions for the sector in the coming years is welcome, it’s only a drop in the ocean of what will be required to cut emissions from the sector by 25pc.

So, while the top-level figures look good, with the 2023 estimates providing a 13pc increase in funds, the here-and-now theme means real climate action will have to wait.

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