Ireland’s leading coalition of environmental groups has reluctantly withdrawn from the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy Committee today having come to the conclusion that the draft Strategy is woefully inadequate to meet the social and environmental challenges we face.
The soon-to-be-published draft 2030 Strategy serves as a follow-up to Food Wise 2025, and rather than drive the ecological transformation we need for agriculture and assure a future for all farmers, the draft 2030 Strategy perpetuates the business-as-usual model of intensification pursued for the last 10 years. 
On leaving, Karen Cielsielski, the co-ordinator of the Environmental Pillar and former representative on the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy Committee, said: “This industry-led Agri-Food 2030 Committee and draft Strategy is on an entirely different book, let alone page, when it comes to our intensive model of agriculture.”
“It fails on so many fronts, and we cannot put our name behind the perpetuation of the environmental crises we have highlighted time and time again.”
“We engaged in the process of drafting this strategy in good faith, but found that our suggestions were largely disregarded. Such treatment of these issues is misaligned with growing calls for climate and biodiversity action, which we know grow louder every day.”
“As a matter of urgency, it is now up to the Government to take full responsibility for agricultural policy to radically change course to cut both emissions and pollution within the sector and support farmers in a Just Transition which also supports biodiversity.”
The Environmental Pillar had been a member of the Department of Agriculture-established 2030 Strategy Committee for over a year. However, despite a large volume of input from our own experts, the draft Strategy falls far short of what’s required to bring agriculture in line with planetary boundaries and did not facilitate any meaningful public participation on the future of Irish land use. Climate and biodiversity NGO advocates were in addition given only a limited space at the table.
This industry-led process has ultimately failed to meet the moment and the draft document it produced provides no evidence that it is based on the EU Green Deal, including the EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy or the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
The document lacks many key policy drivers including the means to reverse the downward trajectory of environmental indicators associated with our agricultural practices.
Agriculture is our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 37.7 percent of our total emissions. It is also the leading cause of pollution of our waters. In addition, intensification has resulted in the catastrophic decline of farmland birds such as breeding waders, with no sign of population recovery. 
Farmers have been let down by past agriculture strategies, and have said so themselves. In a Department of Agriculture survey, less than 20 percent of primary producer consultees agreed that Food Wise 2025 was able to deliver on its vision of thriving producers and industry. 
The commitments of the draft Agri-Food 2030 Strategy are vague and lack the concrete step-wise approach to meet climate and other environmental objectives.
The document enshrines the inadequate AgClimatise roadmap for the industry as a guiding light, which both the Environmental Pillar and other experts have found to be completely insufficient following its publication. 
Indeed, the Department of Agriculture itself has already acknowledged that it needs to be revised due to more ambitious commitments in the Programme for Government.
It takes a long lens to actions far-off on the horizon, and overlooks the urgent action we have to take now.
The Environmental Pillar is also dismayed to find no coherent Department of Agriculture vision or proposal to embrace agroforestry and a transition towards continuous cover permanent native forestry model to replace the unsustainable clearfell/replant exotic conifer model.
The outcomes and process of this draft 2030 Agri-Food Strategy are both deeply flawed. We need an entirely new blueprint for agriculture, one that protects small farmers, upholds climate obligations, and restores our depleted natural environment. It is now in the hands of Government to get us there.
The Environmental Pillar alongside other civil society organisations will be publishing this alternative vision in the coming days, one that is rooted in these aforementioned principles.
Oonagh Duggan, Environmental Pillar and BirdWatch Ireland representative, said:
“The mantra for Food Wise 2025 was that ‘environmental protection and economic competitiveness are equal and complementary: one will not be achieved at the expense of the other’. This turned out to be false, and a breach of promise to the people of Ireland.”
“There has been a marked decline in the quality of our environment, and the draft AgriFood Strategy 2030 shows no let up on business-as-usual. This will lead to further deterioration of our environment and breaches of a range of legal obligations.”
“The National Biodiversity Forum in its recent audit of the National Biodiversity Plan stated that conflict between sectoral policies and biodiversity policy is a primary driver of biodiversity loss. We have an opportunity to rebalance agriculture now in line with environmental objectives and we call on Government to do so.” 
“More and more consumers want food that is produced in a way that works with nature and not against it. Our high nature value farmers have a low-intensity model of production that supports biodiversity and which fits into a future where we will have to eat less meat and dairy in order to cut the impact of agriculture on the natural environment. They need our support.”
Notes:  The Environmental Pillar’s full statement given to the 2030 Agri-Food Strategy Committee today can be found at: https://bit.ly/37M28F “The impact on 2020 greenhouse gas emissions of Covid-19 restrictions” from the EPA is available at https://bit.ly/3smAruD and EPA data on water quality in Ireland can be found at http://bit.ly/3dHkZVL More information on the decline of farmland birds is available at: https://bit.ly/3dJZhAp  The results from a Public Consultation survey on AgriFood 2030 led by the Department of Agriculture published in October 2019 can be read in full at https://bit.ly/3dGYGzD  The Environmental Pillar’s response to the AgClimatise Roadmap can be found at: http://bit.ly/2VZ7Xsy  National Biodiversity Forum audit of National Biodiversity Action Plan https://bit.ly/3pVY0J0
And please find below the Environmental Pillar’s submissions on the 2030 Agri-Food Strategy:
- The Environmental Pillar Interventions to the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy Committee meeting on 12 March 2020
- The Environmental Pillar’s Submission on Chapter 10 of the Agri-Food Strategy 2030 on 30 June 2020
- The Environmental Pillar’s submission on SEA Scoping report and AA Screening statement for Agri-Food 2030 Strategy sent in July 2020
- The Environmental Pillar’s submission to the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy Committee on 28 September 2020
- The Environment Pillar’s submission to the Agri-Food 2030 Strategy Committee on 13 November 2020
- BirdLife Europe’s Position Paper on Feeding the World whilst saving biodiversity
- The Environmental Pillar’s annotated version of the Appropriate Assessment (AA) Screening Statement on Ireland’s Agri-Food Strategy Programme 2020 – 2030