I am sure the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, will agree that the recently announced Mercosur trade deal has angered the Irish farming community no end, particularly the beef sector, and with good reason. It potentially signals the death knell of a sector that has suffered unduly in recent times as a result of the collapse in beef prices, the impact of Brexit and increasing pressures arising from the climate change issue. Among the farming organisations, the president of the Irish Farmers Association, IFA, described the trade agreement as "reckless" and "wrong" and the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, ICMSA, said it was an "absolute disgrace" and "beggars belief" that millions of acres of rainforest will be chopped down to facilitate beef expansion, while sustainable, fully traceable beef in Europe is put to the sword. I put it to the Minister that this trade agreement is in many ways outdated. It is outdated in that it ignores the impact of Brexit on the beef sector, both now and into the future. It is outdated in not taking due note of the collapse in beef prices in recent years and the difficulty the sector is facing. Above all, it is outdated in terms of the climate change issue. It beggars belief that this trade agreement has been signed given the change of mindset around climate change across Europe, including in this country.
The Government seems to be quietly acquiescing to this trade deal. The Minister will recall that during the local elections, the Commissioner, Mr. Hogan, announced a €50 million package and the Government and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, took credit for what we were led to believe were very close dealings between the Commissioner and the Government. At the time, there did not appear to be any conditions attached.
We subsequently learned from documentation published last week that there are significant conditions attached, one key condition being that the measures taken by Ireland shall be aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector along with other objectives. We have this incredibly contradictory position whereby beef is being allowed into Europe which is being produced in an environmentally unsustainable way, while at the same time Europe is putting a condition on compensating Irish farmers around reducing beef production. In today's Irish Independent oped, Commissioner Hogan talks about how he would invite governments to do an environmental assessment, which is incredible. Why in the name of God did he and others not do an environmental assessment? I would point out to him the recent report from the BBC World Service indicating that the Trump of the tropics, President Bolsonaro, is accelerating rapidly the deforestation of Brazil and of the Amazon. There is only one conclusion. The BBC World Service report was aided by officials in the government of Brazil who are absolutely appalled with what is going on there. An area the size of a football pitch is being cleared every single minute, with devastating consequences for the world in terms of the climate change agenda and global warming. The response of Europe is to reward climate change deniers, essentially, and people who pay no heed to it, particularly President Bolsonaro, through this Mercosur trade deal, while hurting beef farmers who are among the most efficient in the world in terms of environmental production models and methodology. Does the Government accept that this is environmentally unsustainable as a trade deal? What strategy does it intend to deploy to deal with it?