Guest post by Siobhan o Donoghue of Uplift
The milk quota system across Europe came to an end on April 1st. Listening to the dominant media and political commentary in Ireland you could be forgiven for thinking that this landmark event heralds the beginning of great things for farming and farmers.
In fact the ending of the famous milk quota system just accelerates the race to the bottom for sustainable farming. The deregulation of milk production risks destabilising the market. Farmers will find it harder to secure a fair price for milk as corporate businesses become more powerful and gain more control of the market. Smaller farming families will find it more difficult to stay in business and out of debt because of inevitable fluctuations in milk prices.
The Irish government’s Food Harvest 2020 Strategy predicts that milk production will increase by 50% with the removal of milk quotas. Agriculture is Ireland’s largest contributor to overall Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for over 30% of our total GHG emissions. By 2020, emissions from the agriculture sector will have increased by 12%, according to projections by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Thus far, there has been a disappointing level of detail outlined by the Department of Agriculture on the potential measures to reduce GHG emissions in their Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Plan. A massive expansion in milk production, without the necessary safeguards, will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.
Ireland represents less that 1% of the world’s dairy cows, and yet is responsible for more than 15% of the global infant milk formula production. There has been considerable celebration of the prediction that 1 in 10 of the world’s babies will be fed on Irish produced milk formula. However there has been minimal discussion about the public health concerns and ethical food production, particularly in the Global South.
The Agri-Food Strategy 2025 is in the process of being prepared by the Dept of Agriculture. It will set out a plan for the sector which will cover the next decade. At a minimum this strategy should contain ambitious targets that ensure the safeguarding of the environment, family farms, public health and ethical food production.
Uplift, Ireland’s newest campaigning community has started a campaign calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to set ambitious targets in the Agri-Food Strategy that safeguard the environment, public health, fair milk prices and sustainable farming. The campaign has started with a petition that you can sign here.
People power is needed to put pressure on the Minister to set targets. Uplift members share a broad range of interests and concerns including protecting the environment, health, sustainable food production and curtailing corporate power. A strong petition will allow all of us to unite and speak with one voice on this really important issue.
Siobhán O’ Donoghue is Director of Uplift Irelands newest campaigning community. We are already over 5,000 people and growing. We unite and take coordinated action on the basis of our shared values – sustainability, equality and social justice.