Country Living with Francis Farragher
Like a lot of others dabbling in the world of farming, I’ve something of a bell in my ear for the last couple of years listening to EU pontifications about turning our agricultural enterprises into greener entities. All this despite the fact that here in the West of Ireland most of our sheep and cattle are primarily fed from the green grass that they eat on our fields often for nine months of the year.
In terms of animal welfare, the cattle and sheep are out where they want to be . . . in the fields with plenty of West of Ireland hawthown, blackthorn and hedging for shelter.
But we’re still not green enough and the message from our own agricultural commissioner, Phil Hogan, is for farmers in the West of Ireland is to start growing trees instead of growing cattle.
All very well up to a point, one might say, but then over the course of the last couple of weeks, we get wind of an EU deal with the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay involving billions of euro of trade.
So, we tell a farmer in Leitrim with 30 acres and 16 suckler cow to cut down his cow numbers by half and to plant 50% of his paltry holding with trees. A dot on the landscape . . . but maybe if it’s happening all over the world . . . well then he too is playing his part.
But, there’s a catch here and a big one. The EU in their wisdom do a deal with the Mercosur countries that will allow them to export almost 100,000 tonnes of beef annually into Europe.
For a start, the distance to be covered across a huge span of the Atlantic Ocean is of the order 10,000 kilometres, or nearly 6,000 miles (and then there’s the return journey), to transport beef to a block of European countries that are already self-sufficient in that product with a surplus of about 4%.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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