Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed the 69th annual general meeting (AGM) of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and emphasized the importance of farmers’ involvement in tackling climate change. The AGM featured speeches from outgoing president Tim Cullinan, new president Francie Gorman, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue. Varadkar expressed his eagerness to engage with President Gorman and congratulated him on his election. He also extended his congratulations to Alice Doyle on her election as deputy president, recognizing the valuable contributions women make to agriculture.
Throughout the AGM, farming representatives expressed concerns about how climate change issues would be addressed. Varadkar reassured them that the agricultural sector would not be burdened unfairly with climate change mitigation. He emphasized the importance of farmers being part of the solution rather than being criticized or shamed for their contributions. Varadkar acknowledged the hard work, commitment, and dedication of farmers, which he credited for the success of the sector.
Varadkar specifically addressed the issue of nitrates and the lack of improvement in water quality. He acknowledged that agriculture is not solely responsible for this problem and highlighted the need for work in areas like waste treatment. He mentioned the visit of European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius to Ireland, noting that while the desired outcome was not achieved, a clear pathway for the future was established. Varadkar expressed his commitment, along with the government, to build a credible case for the retention of the derogation.
Regarding climate change, Varadkar acknowledged the challenge of the 25% agricultural sector emissions target but expressed confidence in Irish farmers’ ability to rise to the challenge. He mentioned potential solutions such as the best use of chemical and organic fertilizers, maximizing the natural advantage of grasslands, and improving animal breeding and feeding. Varadkar emphasized that every sector must adapt and make changes to reduce emissions.
Looking ahead, Varadkar highlighted the focus on climate and the environment in the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2027. He stressed the importance of food security and price stability as well. Varadkar assured the IFA that Ireland would advocate for a well-funded CAP to protect farm incomes and family farms, pledging to work closely with the IFA and others in doing so. He concluded by assuring the farmers that the government would continue to speak up for them in the Dáil, media, and Europe.