There has been raised eyebrows over an agri-foods policy that advocates a significant expansion in production at a time when there is international concern over greenhouse gas emission levels.
In contrast, we will stipulate that the Foundation’s approach will be to promote the view that it should be first about improving farm incomes by increasing the value of farm produce. It is about raising farm incomes and not farm production levels per se. It is about making every unit of output count in terms of the ultimate bottom line, the income that is generated for the farm household.
This is a far cry from an agri-foods policy that is about increasing farm production volumes so as to increase the throughput of large-scale processing units. It is a policy that is flawed when looked at from the perspective of what is the full-cost of production on Ireland’s small-scale family farms. Their overhead cost structure is typically too great to allow them to compete with the large-scale farming units that provide the raw materials for Ireland’s processing / exporting competitors.
At present we do not have all the answers in terms of how to react to emission constraints, but the Foundation’s policy will be to seek out better information concerning emissions and how they act upon farm decision-making. At present, it appears that the national policy is to reduce emissions per unit by the simple expedience of increasing production levels. For us it is about how much farm income can be generated per unit of allowable emissions. In the context of constrained emissions that may mean adding value to raise income rather than selling primary raw materials.
Without doubt, farm decision-making is set to change as it adapts to an emissions-constrained environment but at present it is about seeking out further information to aid the actual process.