In recent days, I have appointed Dr. Munoo Prasad as chairperson to the working group to examine the issues identified during the review of the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry. Dr. Prasad is an independent consultant and researcher. He has vast experience from working in the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Bord na Móna.
The role of the chairperson will be to chair meetings of the working group and to issue recommendations to me arising from its deliberations. It is envisaged that these recommendations will be issued within six months of the establishment of the working group.
Invitations to nominate representatives to the working group will issue shortly from my Department.
The issues identified during the review, in particular, are:
- Reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of peat moss in the amateur gardening sector in order to leave what remains in use for the industry sector to buy time to develop alternatives, enabling food security and to provide industry surety.
- Graduating the elimination of the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry over an agreed period of years with an agreed end date.
- Finance and support for those workers whose skills cannot be accommodated in proposed alternative industries.
- Investment in further research into the development, education and use of alternatives to peat moss, such as bark, wood fibre, coir, biosolids, bracken and green compost, perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, and horticultural clay and in new methods of farming such as paludiculture and sphagnum farming.
- Up-skilling the existing workforce to regenerate the existing bogs for use in paludiculture, eco-tourism, carbon farming, and tree farming as appropriate to optimize environmental outcomes.
- Quantifying the value of the existing viable peat lands as carbon sinks and then determine a carbon market to incentivise owners and operators of peat lands to preserve, rewet or restore their assets.
- Educating the public to the benefits of what would be proposed to include the climate and environmental benefits, the economic, social, cultural and public health benefits.