New Teagasc Sustainability Report Demonstrates Progress Achieved in Agriculture Sector
The report illustrates the income gap between dairy farms and other farm types in Ireland, which has accelerated with the growth in Irish milk production in recent years.
A newly released report on the agricultural sector demonstrates the state of play in terms of sustainability for a range of farm types in Ireland.
The report is produced by Teagasc economists and was released at a Sustainability Conference in Dublin today, Tuesday, 26 March. Using data compiled through the Teagasc National Farm Survey, the report tracks the performance of Irish farms in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
The report illustrates the income gap between dairy farms and other farm types in Ireland, which has accelerated with the growth in Irish milk production in recent years. However, the report also highlights that within each farm type there is a wide range in income levels across the farm population. This fact tends to be overlooked when attention is focused only on the average level of income for particular farm types.
While the mainstay of the National Farm Survey is measurement of economic performance, in recent years the scope of the survey has been expanded to include a growing range of environmental metrics, including farm level greenhouse gas emissions. This year’s edition of the report also includes metrics for farm level ammonia emissions for the first time.
Author of the report Dr. Cathal Buckley, Teagasc economist, noted that farm level emissions efficiency is improving, with a trend towards fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and ammonia per unit of product produced. However, the report also shows that emissions of greenhouse gases and ammonia over time are increasing on farms that are growing in size. Data compiled through the report will be valuable for policy makers and the agri-food industry in understanding how best to focus continuing efforts to address farm emissions and contribute to national targets for gaseous emissions reductions.
The report also demonstrates the positive relationship between economic profitability and emissions efficiency, with the highest levels of emissions efficiency tending to be found on the most profitable farms. This suggests that improvement in economic sustainability can be achieved side by side with improvements in emissions efficiency.
The report is representative of about 90,000 farms in Ireland, but does not cover the smallest farms in the country in terms of economic size. However, these small farms will be tracked in a separate survey using the same methodology, which is set to take place in 2020.
The conference in Teagasc Ashtown today, also heard about the next steps Teagasc will take to further its capacity to measure farm sustainability. This will involve measuring farm habitat biodiversity as part of the wider suite of environmental metrics that are produced within the report. Farm level biodiversity measurement has the potential to be prohibitively expensive, but researchers at Teagasc have recently developed a cost effective and highly accurate approach to habitat biodiversity measurement which will soon be in operation.
Commenting on the release of the report, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle, said that the breadth of detail now available in the Teagasc Sustainability Report means that the report is an exemplar for other organisations to follow internationally.
The full report can be viewed at https://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2019/national-farm-survey-2017-sustainability-report.php