Food Vision Group: demand for nitrogen reduction eased
The final version of the Food Vision Dairy Group’s interim report, presented to the Minister of Agriculture this week, softened the demand for dairy farmers to reduce the use of chemical nitrogen by 2025.
The report, published today (Friday 27 May), highlights that a reduction in the use of chemical nitrogen in the dairy sector of 22-25% by 2025 is now offered.
An earlier version of the report targeted a 30% reduction by 2025.
Also in the medium term, the proposed reduction in chemical nitrogen has also been reduced by 35% to 30% by 2030.
Together they represent a reduction from the current approximate use of 200,000 tonnes to 140,000 tonnes by 2030.
For low-emission slurry spreading (LESS), the adoption target has also been relaxed slightly.
Now it is aiming for 90-100% adoption of LESS for all dairy cow manure by 2025.
This compares to an earlier proposal that went straight to adoption at 100% LESS for all dairy cow organic fertilizer by 2025
Reports state that the Food Vision Dairy Group is broadly in favor of reducing chemical nitrogen in the dairy sector, but a number of stakeholders continue to raise concerns about the ambition of the target set.
“Concerns have been expressed about the practicality of achieving the targets within the proposed timeframe; have specific objectives for the dairy sector in relation to an overall objective for the agricultural sector; potentially reduced crop yields; potential fodder deficit; the need for replacement foods; outstanding science on successful trefoil integration; and the time needed for such systems to be successfully adopted,” he said.
According to the report, the main challenges for the dairy sector are:
- Reduce the use of inorganic fertilizers while maintaining optimal grass growth and productivity;
- It is important that in its efforts to reduce fertilizer use, the industry is not undermined by importing unregulated fertilizer supplies from out of state.
Three stakeholder organizations rejected chemical nitrogen targetssays the report, without revealing which ones.
In general, all the other measures – 17 in total – are unchanged from the previous report, except for some minor changes in the wording used.
The most obvious change concerns the reference to a voluntary retreat/de-intensification scheme, which was replaced by a voluntary exit/dairy reduction diet.
As in the previous draft report, all measures are defined in the short, medium and long term and correspond to the three periods proposed for the carbon budget: 2021-2025; 2026-2030; and 2031 and beyond.
The full list of updated recommendations is as follows:
- Consider a voluntary exit/reduction program for dairy products;
- Explore the potential of an emissions cap and trade model;
- Explore the possibility of measuring and monitoring carbon production at the farm level;
- Reduce the use of chemical nitrogen in the dairy sector by 30% by 2030, with a reduction of 22-25% in the short term (2025). This is a reduction from the current approximate usage of 200,000 tonnes to 140,000 tonnes by 2030.
- Target a 100% replacement rate of CAN with protected urea by the end of 2025 for grass-based dairy production systems;
- Develop methane mitigating power technologies;
- Develop breeding strategies that mitigate methane;
- Adopt a common cooperative charter on sustainable dairy production based on the family farm model;
- Increase investment in climate change research and knowledge transfer (KT); and establish a Climate Change Research Liaison Group (CCRLG) with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
- Design a communication strategy on climate action;
- Increased adoption of Low Emission Manure Application (LESS) – 100% adoption of LESS for all dairy cow manure by 2025;
- Ensure 100% of dairy farms perform soil testing for pH by 2025;
- Drive adoption of clover and multi-species grasslands (MSS) – ensure that all dairy farmers have incorporated clover/multi-species on 20% of their agricultural grasslands by the end of 2025;
- Dairy recording – strive to achieve a 90% adoption rate by the end of 2025;
- Develop opportunities for energy diversification;
- Strengthen all cooperative sustainability programs to support the Teagasc MACC;
- Implement animal health measures listed in action 314 of the 2021 Climate Plan.
“Areas Requiring Agreement”
Commenting, Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue said there were still areas of the report that needed agreement.
“However, it is important to recognize that all parts of the sector are working together to find the best sustainable path for the sector.
“We must act with a sense of urgency both to meet our legal commitments and to uphold Ireland’s well-deserved reputation as a sustainable producer of quality dairy products and ingredients.
“I urge all stakeholders to continue to work together constructively towards an agreed final report with clear and detailed actions.”
The final report will be completed and submitted to the minister “during the summer”, he said.