What is happening in Ireland now is another example for the world of the need to integrate climate change into government policies and business strategies. A fodder crisis has been ongoing for some time now as Irish farmland has suffered a wet summer and an extremely late spring.
There is much being made of this fodder crisis in the media but not enough is being said in regard to a short-sited policy of increasing agricultural production and the national herd during a time of ongoing climate change (with some exceptions FOE, Green Party, Victoria White in The Examiner). While Fianna Fáil continue the pretend role of the largest opposition party – I say pretend because the incumbent is a minority Fine Gael/Independents government supported by Fianna Fáil – and charge Michael Creed Minister for Agriculture of failing to deal with the crisis, they say nothing of their own massive contribution to engendering it in the first place.
Yes Michael Creed has been pretty terrible, denying for months that there was any crisis. However, the fodder problem has surely been exacerbated by the ongoing expansion in the national herd which has been part of the Food Harvest 2020 industry-led and government supported agricultural strategy. That strategy was first launched when Fianna Fáil were in government in 2010. Back then it called for a 50% increase in milk production and an expansion of the national herd from 1.1 million to 1.4 million. Fine Gael continued to support and help implement this policy when they took over and have refined and updated it with their Food Wise 2025 policy.
Since EU milk quotas ended in March 2015 300,000 extra animals have been added to the national herd and more are set to be added by the end of this year and now for the second-time fodder has had to be imported into the country because of a fodder crisis. The fact that the last time was only in 2013 highlights the stupidity of current policy and of Creed’s denial.
It also turns on its head FF and FG’s and the Irish Farmers Association’s feed-the-world narrative, that they have been trying to spin since the recession, claiming that Ireland’s grass-fed beef is much greener and carbon-friendly than anywhere else. As a consequence, they have argued that Ireland should get a special pass on emission targets. The expanding global population needs to be fed and Ireland with their luxurious grass-fed beef are just the thing to feed the world’s poor (say nothing of the amount of added supplements each animal also requires and how our cattle’s carbon credentials might be over-stated).
So Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the farming industry are all responsible for this mess. Journalist Victoria White, writing about the fodder crisis in 2013, predicted it. Why couldn’t our Governments? The last decade has been the wettest in 300 years. It is well past the hour when climate change needs to be factored into the very core of government policy – I would say at every level but quite clearly into an area where the effects of climate change are so immediate.