Common Agricultural Policy

I am delighted to chair this important session of the joint sitting.

Agriculture is our largest indigenous industry. In this session we will deal with the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, which has served the country well in recent years. In our discussion we are going to hear about where it is going to go in the months and years ahead. The discussion will include the environmental and budgetary aspects of the CAP. Budgets are very important, as nothing can be done without them. We will also hear about reform, subsidiarity and flexibility. We would like to hear about all of these elements. Whenever there is a discussion about the CAP, we hear about the need to make it more simplified. "Simplification" is a big word, but the CAP always seems to come out more bureaucratic. We are looking forward to the discussion on the next CAP taking place and being concluded in the next year or so to finally have a more simplified programme. I am delighted that we are joined by Mr. Daniel Bakker from Queens University Belfast, Dr. Sinéad Furey and Dr. Lynsey Hollywood from Ulster University, Dr. Sinéad McCarthy from Teagasc and Ms Siún Máire Riordan from University College Cork. I welcome them and thank them for attending to discuss this very important issue, on which I look forward to a very good discussion. I call Mr. Bakker to make his opening statement.

Mr. Daniel Bakker

It is a great honour to be in the Seanad Chamber. I will speak about the CAP for a few minutes.

In June 2018 the European Commission put forward its legislative proposals for the future of the CAP post 2020. Previous reforms of the CAP had been driven by political and economic change. It is important, therefore, for all concerned to look at the political challenges facing the European Union and what the future of the CAP might look like.

The European Union is facing the challenges of UK withdrawal, the rise of a Eurosceptic tide across member states, global market instability, particularly in agricultural prices, and greater pressure to respond and adapt to climate change. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union is crucial because it has contributed significantly to a forecasted reduction in the CAP budget for the period 2021 to 2027. The cut proposed is 5%, but it will be around 12% in real terms. As the CAP is one of the cornerstones of European integration, it is important that the Commission’s proposals be considered and scrutinised.

The proposed legislation retains the current two pillar structure of direct payments and rural development but allows much greater flexibility for member states to choose where their allocation of funds will go. The Commission’s rationale is to streamline the CAP and increase overall efficiency. Member states will be better able to target their interventions to suit their specific contexts. The proposals also have revised greening architecture for pillar 1 payments and put strong emphasis on the CAP’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Member states will be responsible for drawing up strategic plans which will then be approved by the Commission to ensure they stay within the CAP’s overall objectives. Some see this as a step in the right direction, but others, including some member states, have raised concerns as strategic plans might place a further administrative burden on national governments. Many agricultural stakeholders have criticised the idea as it could potentially lead to an undermining of the Single Market and compromise a level playing field for farmers. Some fear the proposals amount to a renationalisation of agriculture and will increase bureaucracy and market distortions, resulting from differences in implementation across the European Union. Affording member states too much flexibility has also been criticised by environmentalists. As well as criticising the continuation of "perverse subsidies", environmentalists argue that flexibility with no real incentives to have ambitious targets could lead to declining environmental standards across the European Union. The proposed "enhanced conditionality" clause in the new legislative proposals has been viewed as more greenwashing of the CAP, without sufficient accountability mechanisms to ensure adherence to environmental regulations.

It is important to stress that the proposals are in their very early stages.

As we saw with the previous CAP reform in 2013, nothing is likely to be passed until the EU budget is agreed. There will be a new European Parliament and perhaps a new European Commissioner by the time the legislation enters into force, but as the proposal stands, there are several steps that could be taken to ensure a successful CAP.

There could be greater promotion of dialogue between environmentalist organisations and agricultural stakeholders. At least since the 1992 reform of CAP, we have seen the struggle to merge agricultural production with environmental protection, which, unfortunately, sometimes leads to conflicting and contradictory interests. Helping to promote common ground at EU and national levels could result in a more coherent policy. The approval process for strategic plans needs to be transparent and as strong as possible, as this is essentially the only mechanism for ensuring that national priorities do not conflict with EU-wide objectives. Maintaining the common aspect of the CAP is essential. Furthermore, the proposals allow for only the Commission to approve strategic plans, but to improve accountability, that process could be based formally on widespread consultation and should involve input from the co-legislators and various stakeholders. What happens if there is an impasse between national priorities and CAP objectives should be spelled out by the Commission. As the Commission views the next CAP as a move towards evidence-based policy, which prioritises results over compliance, it is important the quality of data sources are to an appropriate standard and that national Governments have the technical capacity to construct and defend a strategic plan. This might involve greater investment in technical assistance and upgrading of skills, which will be difficult if the current budget predictions are accurate.

The period for the next CAP is one of learning for the European Union as it experiments with this new delivery model. It is important for all concerned that there is an awareness of the challenges facing the upcoming reform, which will be shaped by competing interests among stakeholders within a potentially reduced budget. It is important to stress the crucial role of dialogue and consultation to ensure an efficient and coherent CAP.

I thank Mr. Bakker, who finished well within the allotted time. I neglected to remind speakers that they will be given four minutes each for their presentations.

I invite Dr. Furey to make her opening statement.

Dr. Sinéad Furey

I thank Senators for the opportunity to appear before the House. I will present a joint perspective on behalf of myself and my colleague from Ulster University business school, Dr. Lynsey Hollywood. We very much welcome the opportunity to discuss our perspective on the future and ongoing reform of the CAP. It is entirely appropriate that such a collaborative and open approach is used because it is in this capacity as stakeholders that farmers and wider stakeholders have an important opinion in this area.

Our presentation will focus on four main priorities we believe that any ongoing CAP reform should include. The first is to address the volatility or instability of our agricultural markets because we consider primary food production a special case. The exceptionalism of food means that a political and social importance is attached to it, and it is entirely appropriate to give meaningful support to farmers in recognition of their contribution to this important primary production. It is also important to consider the issue of cross-compliance, but without subsidising or supporting any lack of competitiveness or inefficiencies within agriculture. It is also entirely appropriate that the support is directed towards farmers in less favourable farming areas. Any income support or resilience payment should not be allowed to become a surrogate for income support, nor a means of indefinitely maintaining uneconomical farming units. There should continue to be a focus on the full decoupling of primary production from income support, without any regression to coupling food production with any kind of payment. This will allow any agrifood industry ultimately to become more responsive, which is an important future direction to be consumer orientated and market led.

The lack of collaboration in the farming community and, more widely, agrifood is an issue. Government intervention could usefully foster greater collaboration, although that will need careful consideration through, for example, appropriate incentivisation. A better understanding of market requirements would enable farmers to move from a production mentality to a more marketing mindset. Any support could usefully be focused on support for know-how of marketing aspects. Identifying that market need or niche in the market and how to differentiate one's product offering would help create diversification, support farmers in that mentality and allow us to look towards a strong, value-added market with strong export potential. In the light of agricultural exceptionalism, some mechanism needs to be in place to ensure a secure, sustainable, healthy environment, and to prevent instability of the agricultural market, erratic food prices and market distortion. It is important that any solution does not serve to increase food prices for the end consumer.

That brings me to the second priority, namely, food security, which covers the continuity of supply, health and food poverty. The security of supply is especially important in the context of Europe and globally, given the increasing population and the need to feed more people and produce more food for more people. The world's population is predicted to be 9 billion by 2050. It would be appropriate for any ongoing and future reform of the CAP or agricultural framework to consider health, simply because of the relationship between food choice, nutrition and health. These policies should usefully complement one another. We need our industry to encourage production of food consistent with guidelines for healthy eating and for population nutrition. That leaves us a space in food innovation to ensure we meet that market nee, although it cannot be at the expense of the twin objectives of productivity alongside environmental sustainability. As for unnecessary costs being accrued to the consumer, paradoxically, those consumers who stand to benefit most from a healthy diet are those who can least afford it. Consumers, therefore, must not be disadvantaged by a two-tier pricing policy or as a consequence of their reality. They must be able to access, afford and avail of healthy food.

Our third priority is ensuring that food and farming are public goods, which we hinted at earlier in the context of environmental production. We need to consider and continue the emphasis on the active management of land, which should be rewarded in a way that respects cross-compliance. Farming is more than its principal purpose of primary production and, therefore, any payment schedule made to farmers must be conditional upon food safety, food quality, environmental and animal welfare, and occupational health and safety standards. We need to consider the pivotal role that farming can play in preserving and enhancing the rural and natural environments, the importance of which we should not diminish. Our farming counterparts are the custodians of our natural environment and it is important to respect the amenity value of the countryside. Any future agricultural framework and policy should aim to preserve and enhance the amenity and recreational value of our land, and to reward landowners for conducting that public good on society's behalf.

Our final priority is the maintenance of the rural population and rural development. Agriculture requires generational renewal of active farmers. As we hinted at in the context of incentivisation, one might expect us, from a university perspective, to suggest that continuing professional development, short courses and educational attainment in this regard are also important. Universities and the higher education sector have a role to play in providing access to increasing professional educational attainment in this area, and in allowing farmers to have that marketing mindset and the export potential to be exploited. We welcome a multi-actor approach to science and innovation, involving support agencies and research institutions.

In conclusions, further reform of the CAP is to be welcomed. We recommend that policy makers continue to pursue aggressively the decoupling of food production from payments to exploit that truly market-orientated, consumer-led approach and to allow for complementary agrifood and health policies in a way that is mutually supportive of people, the planet and profit.

I thank Dr. Furey. I apologise for having cut across her. I accept she was speaking on behalf of herself and Dr. Hollywood and, therefore, I was somewhat more liberal with the time.

I invite Dr. McCarthy to make her opening statement.

Dr. Sinéad McCarthy

I am based at the Teagasc food research centre, Ashtown, Dublin 15. I will comment on the sustainability of the Irish diet from the point of view of carbon footprint, its implications for policy, including policy from the point of view of the end user and the end of the food supply chain, and accounting for consumer food behaviour. The contribution of food consumption towards climate change has received increasing attention in recent years, especially recently with the launch of the EAT-Lancet report. In its present form, food consumption is responsible for as much as 30% of EU greenhouse gas emissions, GHGs. Therefore, we need to look at food choices and food behaviour and see how we can alter them to influence health and the environment.

Are there any food choice behaviours that are sustainable as a diet and nutritionally acceptable? Can the two areas meet? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization defines sustainable diets as those "with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy".

The "economically fair" aspect of this is very important as the agriculture industry is the largest indigenous industry in Ireland. GHGs associated with food production are measured in carbon equivalents to produce a carbon footprint for the food we consume. In general, plant-based foods are low in GHG emissions, whereas foods from animal sources are higher, especially those from ruminant animals. The European Commission has found that Ireland has one of the lowest carbon footprints of animal products in Europe because of the system we use to produce meat. Foods from animal sources provide many essential nutrients necessary for good health and, therefore, are an important part of a healthy diet. Certain nutrients can only be found in meat products and are not available in plant products. Environmental and human health issues should be considered together to ensure socially and nutritionally optimal outcomes for both.

Research is ongoing in Teagasc, in conjunction with University College Cork, to examine the carbon footprint of the Irish diet and food consumption behaviours which result in a more or less sustainable and health diet. The aim is to determine the quantity of GHG emissions associated with food consumption patterns in Irish adults and to determine what patterns of food consumption are associated with sustainability and health. We use the best publicly available data to do the national adult nutrition survey funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine through its fair funding measure. Each food consumed was converted into carbon equivalents and measured the carbon produced by consuming these foods, instead of looking at nutrients as is traditionally done. It is no surprise that meat, in particular ruminant meat, made the highest contribution to carbon in the Irish diet as a result of the high conversion factor associated with meat and dairy, while plant sourced foods had the lowest CO2 in the diet.

It is important to eat a varied diet and not just one particular food group. Consumers who followed a cultural pattern traditional to the Irish diet, with high meat, fruit and vegetable consumption, had the lowest CO2 footprint of all consumers, showing that meat plays a very important role in health and a sustainable diet. We also found that food consumption and energy intake beyond our nutritional requirements contributed to the public health epidemic of obesity, as well as food waste. Promoting a healthier diet and lifestyle, which reduces food consumption, also helps from an environmental perspective. The findings from this research support the notion that any policy measures should be evidence based and should consider the prevailing cultural food consumption patterns of a population. CAP reform, and any associated food policy instruments developed for sustainability reasons, should be holistic in nature and take other parameters such as health and nutrition into consideration, rather than concentrating on one food group. It should reward more sustainable production and meet our consumer demands.

The final presentation is from Ms Riordan from UCC.

Ms Siún Máire Riordan

It is an honour to address members of the joint committees today. I welcome their engagement with younger citizens. I am a second year European studies student in University College Cork.

As a young person growing up in rural Ireland, I have seen the importance of the agricultural industry and the difference the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, makes in Ireland. One of the leading incentives behind Ireland’s decision to apply for European Union membership was the opportunity of gaining support from the CAP. When the CAP was introduced under the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the objectives were to improve and stabilise the incomes of those engaged in the farm sector, largely through market support mechanisms but with some activities oriented towards improving farming productivity and structural adjustments within the farm sector. As the EU now discusses the future of the CAP post 2020, it is important to recall how beneficial this policy is and has been for Ireland.

One of the aspects of the CAP that has had the greatest impact on the lives of farmers across the EU has been the payment schemes. Farmers are given money for maintaining their land and young farmers are given payments to encourage them to start farming. They are given grants or loans to help start up and farmers can receive the green direct payments for reaching environment objectives. The objective of the CAP is to give farmers and other agricultural workers a decent standard of living. While the CAP is not always fairly divided among all recipients, it has still improved the income for thousands of farmers across Ireland and the EU. The CAP’s direct payment schemes help protect farmers from the uncertainty of the market. At the moment, the CAP has a small farmers' scheme which is aimed at supporting smaller farmers in Europe. However, this only operates in 15 EU countries and Ireland is not among them. This is unfortunate because if this policy was introduced in Ireland, it would aid many more in the agricultural industry. Many Irish farmers are small farmers and the CAP currently does not have a big an impact on their lives.

The CAP encourages green, sustainable farming. Part of the direct payment is given to farmers who strive for greener, more environment friendly agricultural production. In theory, this should help Ireland improve its carbon footprint and reach its climate change objectives. Farmers gain more by diversifying their crop and meeting environmental goals. This is important for farmers as it gives them the opportunity to receive more from the CAP schemes while also encouraging them to be more environmentally conscious. The CAP may be more known for its payments to farmers but it is also very focused on rural development and sustainability. The CAP has helped many local, rural regions around Ireland. Between 2007 and 2013, €4.3 billion of funding was given to help agricultural production that would benefit rural areas.

The CAP also helps non-agricultural activities, such as small-scale manufacturing and food processing. Such activities encourage businesses to set up in rural areas, focusing on the development of the local food sector. This is important as it brings employment to rural regions and allows small, rural, agricultural communities to prosper and to use their large agricultural sector to develop compatible businesses. When rural areas are developed, this development attracts more people to the area, offers more employment and can increase tourism. The increase in employment is especially important as many farmers who operate small farms must get jobs outside the farm to supplement their household income. This is made easier when the region around them is more developed, giving them a greater opportunity to find employment. The development of these areas is vital to encourage people to stay and continue, or even start, farming in these rural areas. The continuance of CAP ensures the development of Irish rural areas and gives further aid to the agricultural workers here.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will meet next week and I will follow its discussions about the future of the CAP post 2020 very closely. At the most recent meeting in April, I was stuck by the emphasis by the Romanian Presidency on the environmental ambition of the CAP. I agree that this is a major feature of CAP reform. It will be advantageous not only to EU farmers but to every single EU citizen. As a young citizen, I value sustainable development and want a green future for Ireland. I know that Ministers have been discussing climate, biodiversity and water quality, to name just a few issues. I hope to see a future in which we can enjoy sustainable food security and see an improvement in the environmental issues that exist today.

I thank those who made their presentations, which were very insightful. The CAP and CAP reform are a key part of our body of work at committee level and we have already made a number of submissions to Europe.

We attended several Council meetings around Europe, including in Croatia and Romania in recent months. Members of the committee made a presentation at the European Parliament's agriculture committee approximately a year ago. It is a priority matter for the committee and a significant issue for agriculture in Ireland, as all present are aware. It is important that we keep engaging with this process. Agriculture is our largest indigenous industry but it does not get its fair share of media coverage when it needs it. It is great to have this opportunity to discuss the matter. I am joined by some members of the committee and I would like to have engagement with them and the witnesses over the next ten or 15 minutes. We will take a couple of questions together if that is acceptable to the witnesses.

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. Has research been conducted on what will happen in the advent of Brexit for the farmers in Northern Ireland in terms of their current income? That question is for Mr. Bakker and Dr. Furey. Does Dr. McCarthy know whether Teagasc has conducted research on our capacity to sustainably provide sufficient plant-based food for this country and some for export, in addition to a certain amount of meat production and land being used to plant forestry, in the case of increased demand for a plant-based diet?

There are several vulnerable sectors in the Irish agricultural sector and there has been much discussion of the suckler beef sector which is going through a turbulent time. Dr. Furey mentioned that we should move away from coupling and towards decoupling. How can the vulnerable sectors be supported to ensure a sustainable future for them? On suckler beef farmers, who are a key part of the industry in the west of Ireland, if that industry goes into decline, large parts of that region may be depopulated, which would have a significantly negative effect on rural Ireland. How could the next CAP protect the vulnerable sectors of the agriculture industry?

On behalf of the Seanad, I welcome the witnesses. It is a breath of fresh air to hear people speak for approximately 40 minutes without anyone interrupting them, which is a rather unusual occurrence in the Seanad Chamber.

It is the influence of the Co-Chair.

There is no doubt that the Co-Chairman has played his part. We have a very busy schedule today and there is a significant amount of work relating to this meeting. It is a momentous day and it is great to be able to record our participation in the European Union and celebrate Europe Day.

Agriculture accounts for a large part of our portfolio and work. There has been a significant shift in recent years to larger dairy and crop farmers. Similarly, larger dry stock farmers seem to be more prevalent. The days of the part-time farmer who may have a second job and tend 40 acres or 50 acres may be numbered. From the perspective of Dr. McCarthy and Teagasc, in ten or 15 years, will part-time farming be a thing of the past? While canvassing for the local and European elections, as all politicians have been doing, I noted the number of unoccupied smaller farm holdings which are being subsumed by larger farmholders. Does Dr. McCarthy anticipate a massive change in our model of farming? That seems to have happened in recent years.

To follow on from the question of my colleague, Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy, there is no doubt that there are now far more soya beans, mung beans, pinto beans, lentils and so on for sale in supermarkets. From which countries are these products coming? The products at which I have looked are not produced in Ireland. I am specifically referring to plant-based protein foods for human consumption. Is there a desire or ability to grow them in Ireland? I know there are issues around soya beans in that regard. I understand that many types of beans come from the tropics and are more suited to such climates, which obviously means there is a carbon footprint involved in bringing them here. In many parts of the tropics, people do not have enough food or their diet is not as good as it should be. I direct my questions particularly at Dr. McCarthy.

Before I revert to the witnesses, I apologise for the absence of several committee members. Parliamentary questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine are being heard in the Dáil and the spokespersons of the main parties are tied up there. I offer their apologies.

Dr. Sinéad McCarthy

I will roll two responses into one. On the issue of from where plant-based foods are coming and whether there is a way to combine animal and plant-based production in Ireland, certain climates and agricultural environments lend themselves better to certain types of food production. For example, producing meat and dairy in Ireland is very suited to our climate as we get a lot of rain and do not solely rely on the water supply for agriculture. Many of our animals are grass fed for more than 300 days per year and when they are kept in during the winter months they are fed from silage. Very little animal feed is given to them.

On beef production, meat and dairy very efficiently convert food such as grass that humans cannot consume to protein which they can. If we were to change that production type to more plant-based production, it might not be as successful because the land that we currently use for producing meat and dairy is not necessarily suitable for plant production. There is also an issue in terms of the amount of carbon that is kept as a sink in the ground or soil and which would be released if the land was ploughed to plant alternative food sources.

My answer to Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy's question is yes and no. There is a possibility to produce both but we need to be careful regarding the land we choose to use differently. It would not necessarily result in a lower carbon footprint. Some research indicates that as a result of the higher inputs of fertiliser and so on that are required to produce plant-based crops, there may be, at best, a 10% to 12% reduction in carbon footprint. It is not a direct swap of one for the other as there are other challenges in changing farming practices and the resultant dietary CO2.

Many plant-based proteins such as beans and legumes are imported and have many associated food miles. It is not always possible to recommend a plant-based diet to certain vulnerable groups in the community. For example, older adults naturally consume less food but need a higher protein intake. The best source of protein for older consumers to maintain muscle mass and prevent falls and frailty is animal protein. They would need to eat four to five times the amount of lentils or beans to get the same amount of protein and it would not be possible for them to eat that much food. There is a role for both plant and animal protein in diet and it is about getting the balance right in terms of achieving concordant measures of health and sustainability. One must not focus solely on the carbon footprint of the diet without taking account of the nutrition and health outcomes.

Dr. Sinéad Furey

To respond to Deputy Corcoran Kennedy's question, unfortunately I am not aware of the likely effects of Brexit on farming incomes in Northern Ireland. Ulster University is not actively involved in farming research but we are most certainly involved in more general research on food poverty and food insecurity. If it satisfies members, I will speak more generally on that point. It is anticipated that Brexit will create an additional cost of £25 per week on the average household's food bill. For citizens who are already squeezed, impoverished or vulnerable, this will create an additional burden and we are worried about that. Ulster University is very active in the food poverty research agenda. We are developing an at-risk of food poverty index that will consider low income and rurality in identifying where such consumers are located to enable more targeted interventions.

More specifically, there area also concerns regarding rural dwellers and agricultural smallholders. Given that the average age of smallholders in Northern Ireland and Great Britain is approximately 60 years, we are concerned about generational renewal and the need for young farmers. It was for this reason that we addressed the point of diversification and the need to add value. We will be actively involved in the food innovation effort to try to complement agriculture, food availability and health. We need to be concerned about the departure of farmers from farming because it has become unprofitable.

There is an opportunity to educate and engage with consumers on the more general point of the importance of eating locally and seasonally so that we can celebrate our local and indigenous foods. We must showcase indigenous produce so that we are not reliant on alternative protein sources from other countries.

We are working with policymakers in Northern Ireland in a collaborative effort on agrifood and food policy generally. Brexit has caused concerns about food affordability and availability and the possibility that access to a fresh and varied diet may become more problematic for Northern Ireland consumers.

Mr. Daniel Bakker

On the question of what the consequences of Brexit will be for farmers in the North, Brexit is an all-Ireland problem because many of the agrifood industries operate on an all-island basis. The raw materials may move from the North to the South to be processed, return to the North to be packaged and, finally, be sold in the South. It is great that the common travel area is secure but much more could be done in terms of regulatory alignment between the market in the North and the South to minimise disruption to goods moving across the Border. If the Assembly in the North gets up and running, the North-South Ministerial Council would be a good forum to promote more alignment on agrifood and minimise disruption.

In our discussions on the CAP in recent months, we discovered that in Europe 1,000 farmers a month are leaving agriculture. That is a substantial number. The position here is no different from that in other countries. What would the witnesses like to see included in the next CAP to reverse that trend?

Mr. Daniel Bakker

The Co-Chairman has asked a good question. I will leave it to my colleague to reply.

Dr. Sinéad Furey

To try to stem the tide of farmers leaving agriculture, I would like to see an incentivisation effort around food and farming which would give farmers reasons to choose to remain and encourage a new generation of farmers. As members will probably expect me to say, I believe a joint collaborative effort by university and other research and educational institutions could be useful in providing such an incentivisation. This would not necessarily have to be economic. One way forward could be to subsidise educational attainment efforts or repurpose farmers, as it were, to enable them to move into more diverse food processing areas.

Dr. Lynsey Hollywood

I agree with Dr. Furey. It is important that we build entrepreneurial skills among farmers and education is a primary tool to do so. We also need farmers to adopt a diversification mindset.

Dr. Sinéad McCarthy

I will combine my responses because I did not answer the Co-Chairman's question on the future of smaller farmers in Ireland.

He is a very good Chairman as I am sure the witnesses appreciate.

Dr. Sinéad McCarthy

I will make my way forward.

It is the Carlow way.

Dr. Sinéad McCarthy

I see a role for small farmers as well as large-scale intensive farming. When one considers the food supply chain from a carbon footprint perspective, between 80% and 85% of the carbon footprint is generated before the food leaves the farmyard. It is very important that we put measures in place from a sustainability perspective to reduce the carbon footprint of food as it is being produced and support smaller farmers to produce food more sustainably. Farming should not be only large-scale and intensive. CAP could address this by implementing more sustainable practices at farm level. A great deal of research has been done in Europe. I am involved in a circular agricultural economics research project in the European Union, which has 20 partners across Europe. We are looking at more sustainable farming practices and how acceptable they would be to consumers at the end of the food chain. We need to develop a more circular economy and maintain better sustainability at farm level. This would help to maintain smaller farms and keep European farmers in the farming industry.

I fully agree with Dr. McCarthy, whose response fed into the contributions of the other witnesses. As the Co-Chairman said, many farmers, including many small-scale farmers, have left the industry.

Dr. Sinéad McCarthy

The reason may be that there are no incentives for them to stay. The potential to reward sustainability is one issue that could be considered.

Ms Siún Máire Riordan

Education is important for small farmers. Farming is not a nine-to-five job but a 24-7 job. Small farmers need more supports and further education would help them to diversify and grow their businesses.

That concludes this very important session on the CAP. I thank the contributors for their important presentations. We will hear a great deal about this issue in the next year or two before a final deal is completed. I also thank members for their questions. I will hand over to my colleague, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, who will chair the next session.