As the Deputy is probably aware, we are currently finalising the preparation of our CAP Strategic Plan (CSP), which will be submitted to the Commission for approval by the end of the year. The plan contains a comprehensive set of schemes which will lead to reductions in absolute greenhouse gas emissions, with significant co-benefits for air, water quality and biodiversity. Central to the CSP is protecting and enhancing farm incomes.
The Suckler Carbon Efficiency Scheme (SCES) will build on significant investments made to date under the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP). Suckler beef farmers will be financially rewarded for participating in the scheme, which will not only improve GHG efficiencies, it will also reduce absolute GHG emissions over time, making a contribution to the sector's overall 22-30% GHG reduction target by 2030. Breeding low emitting animals will become a priority for this decade, and the Suckler scheme will support this objective. Crucially, participants will receive €150 on the first 10 cows and €120 on all remaining cows. This is significantly up on the BDGP which paid €90/cow on the first 10 in the herd and €80 thereafter.
Funding under Pillar II has been increased by over €900m in order to roll out a host of new schemes that will financially reward farmers to continue to play a leadership role in tackling climate change and addressing biodiversity and water quality. The new agri-environmental scheme under Pillar II will pay up to a maximum of €10,000/farmer. There will be a move towards rewarding farmers for results-based outcomes, which will clearly contribute to overall environmental objectives.
Under Pillar I, the Eco-Scheme measures offer a range of farmer-friendly options to participate while also having environmental benefits.
My Department is also committed to the concept of carbon farming, a key part of current EU agriculture policy.
A working group has been established which, taking account of developments at EU level, will bring forward a plan for establishing a pilot scheme.
Carbon farming has significant potential to establish alternative funding streams for Irish agriculture, working closely with voluntary carbon markets, to provide financial incentives to underpin the necessary changes in farm management. I am genuinely excited and enthused about the potential of this area and I will push it forward.
I have also established a soil carbon observatory and a soil sampling programme which will help to establish carbon baselines at individual farm levels. This will position Irish farmers to take advantage of carbon farming as the decade progresses.