The agricultural sector is making much more progress than other sectors to reduce emissions, Taoiseach Simon Harris told the Irish Farmers Journal at a European People's Party (EPP) conference in Limerick on Friday.

This progress, he argued, is despite the fact that people keep on "finger wagging" at farmers.

The Taoiseach added that he agrees with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue's decision not to pursue a dairy exit or reduction scheme which was confirmed this week.

"I do support Minister McConalogue's decision, because I think we have to do better when it comes to the debate around climate that suggests the answer is to reduce agricultural output.

"I don't buy into that theory that you either have to be on the side of climate or on the side of farmers. It's actually possible in Government and in fact you're obligated to do more than one thing at a time," he said.


By taking the proposal of a voluntary scheme for dairy farmers to reduce numbers or exit the sector completely, this has indicated that the agriculture sector is making real progress when it comes to its emissions targets, the Taoiseach maintained.

"It's making more progress than other sectors by the way - despite the fact that people keep on finger wagging at farmers. It's making much more progress than some sectors.

"Now we need to continue to work with farmers, work with the dairy sector to support them. What I'd like to see is income streams to help farmers [to] transition," he said.

Nitrates derogation

Maintaining a nitrates derogation for Irish farmers, he said, is something he believes in and something he will work on as Taoiseach of Ireland.

"I look forward to working closely with my MEP colleagues and with the [European] Commission to make sure that is the case. I believe that it is important for our industry here in this country. I want to work with farmers in terms of maintaining that," he said.