2022 is shaping up to be a year of real challenge played out in a public arena.
This will be the year when the reality of what it takes to achieve national emissions targets will sink in and when people will realise that, when the phrase ‘everyone must play their part’ is used, it means all of us.
However, for the Irish dairy industry – part of an agricultural sector that accounts for 34% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, the bulk of which are methane – there’s an issue beyond reducing our total emissions by 22% by 2030.
It’s an issue of perception.
The complexity of the methane vs carbon dioxide calculation has been over-simplified and the conclusion has been drawn that reducing Ireland’s emissions is a simple as reducing livestock numbers.
Two narratives have emerged from this – first, a reduction in emissions from livestock is a ‘quick fix’, allowing everyone else to get on with business as usual and second, that a reduction in Ireland’s national herd is the only way to meet our targets.
Somewhere along the way, the story of Irish dairy has been lost. It’s a story of 18,000 family farms, and 60,000 jobs, of exports to 130 countries and of €5.2bn a year in revenue to the Irish economy.
It’s also the story of the development and implementation of advanced farming practices and new technologies that are making Irish dairy the most emissions-efficient production system in Europe.
Dairy farming is part of Ireland’s heritage. It has been taking place in Ireland for 4,000 years, because our country has the right climate and the right soil and is 65% pasture. 72% of Irish people are saying they are buying more Irish food and drink brands – and they should be encouraged to include Irish dairy amongst those purchases.
In 2022 Irish dairy needs a central, consolidated voice, one that champions the industry not just in the wider agricultural sector and amongst legislators, but with the woman and man on the street – the consumer of dairy products – the people who, ultimately, grant us our social licence to produce. The NDC will be that voice.
Irish dairy can be wholly sustainable – in the true sense of the word – and can provide a future for generations of farmers to come. The NDC will tell the story of Irish dairy and restore pride and trust in its quality, its sustainability and its role in a balanced, healthy diet.
Our Manifesto for 2022 establishes six platforms:
- Connecting the Farmer and the Consumer
- Health and Nutrition
- Research and Understanding
- Dairy Sustainability
- Made in the Republic of Ireland
- Champions of the Future
Through them, we create a position – for the NDC and for the industry – from which our voice cannot be ignored, presenting opportunity for real debate on the issues and the development of a different, informed, dairy narrative.