THE Ulster Farmers’ Union and Northern Ireland Ag-
ricultural Producers Or-ganisation (NIAPA) have been thanked for hosting a series of meetings across NI to discuss the impact of the Climate Change Bill brought forward by Green MLA Clare Bailey.
TUV Mourne councillor Harold McKee extended his thanks to the organisations after he and other South Down politicians took part in a climate change debate on the farm of Pat McKay, a member of the UFU from Burren.
Mr McKee said: “A series of UFU/NIAPA meetings are being held across Northern Ireland to discuss the impact of the Clare Bailey Climate Change Bill on the farming sector.
“While the focus was on Ms Bailey’s proposals, I have to say that I am sceptical to say the least about the ideas which have been floated by Minister Poots in his legislation as well.
“My starting point is a simple one – farming is not the enemy of the environment. Far from it. Particularly in Northern Ire-
land, farms are a model of good environmental practice. As custodians of the land, farmers have special interest in maximising sustainability and to suggest that they have been doing things wrong for years is to my mind nonsense.
“Having listened to the farmers and farm suppliers, I am in no doubt they were taking this issue very seriously and questioning their viability as suppliers, beef and dairy producers in the years ahead should it become law.
“Two business men who process and supply farm products have ceased their plans to extend their premises as a result of
the discussions currently taking place in Stormont.
“One already employs 45 people but with these proposals on the table he sees no long term need for his supplies.
“Another dairy farmer was concerned about the 86 per cent reduction in dairy cattle between now and 2045 proposed in the Bailey Bill.
“He used the example of a 200 cow herd being reduced to 28 cows and a 20 cow herd being cut to 2.8, which may mean two cows. In his own words ‘This is not on, this destroys the small farmer and encourages growth within the larger farms’. Another questioned where income was coming from with 13,000 job losses expected by 2045.
“As one who was a cattle producer and DEARA spokes-person in the Assembly in 2016-17, I have a keen interest in all things agriculture. I drew the audience’s attention to what Dr Mitloehner had to say about green-house gas. Dr Mitloehner is a professor and air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science, University of California. He has pointed out that biogenic methane from livestock is not the same as fossil methane from oil and gas. The carbon that is emitted by our animals is a ‘recycled carbon’, fossil fuels extracted from land or sea, used for oil or gas and burned in all modes of transport, is not a cycle but a ‘one-way street’.”
At the end of the meeting all attendees were given a copy of an impact assessment report produced by audit and advisory service KPMG.
“Since having read the report, I am even more convinced that the Bill on reducing zero emissions by 2045 will have a detrimental impact on farms and our economy,” said Mr McKee.
He continued: “The Bill is look-
ing towards ‘behavioural change’ which means a shift from consumers eating animal based products to plant based diets and animal based meat replaced by 30 per cent lab grown meat. (Lab meat is a cultured meat made from harvesting living animal cells).
“KPMG state this shift does not necessarily mean a reduction in carbon emissions as it can have a detrimental impact on the environment, producing more raw waste, more methane, using more water and fossil fuels.
“This Bill will have a major impact on the 650,000 people who live in the rural areas of Northern Ireland, with the 78 per cent family owned rural micro businesses who have a high dependency on farm activities, knowing very well that the future success of the rural economy is inextricably linked to rural agriculture and agri-food business.
“If behavioural change doesn’t happen then we have ‘carbon leakage’ which will be a result of imported food from other countries, for example Australian beef, which is produced cheaper with less traceability and flown by aeroplane or shipped using fossil fuels.”
He concluded: “Farmers know
that change is needed and many have taken steps to reduce emissions on their farms.
Agricultural researchers are
already working on new tech-nologies and processes to combat climate change.
“If Stormont’s MLAs agree to a Climate Change Bill they need to realise instead of a progressive Northern Ireland they have agreed to take Northern Ireland agricultural sector back to 1947.
Those who lived through World War Two know they never wasted food because there was a shortage and the only way for a minimum distribution was a ‘food ration book’. This is the direction we will be heading.”
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