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Signpost Programme–Farmers for Climate Action

The Signpost Programme–Farmers for Climate Action, is being officially launched today, Tuesday, 18 May. This Teagasc led initiative is a partnership of almost 40 companies and organisations from the Irish agri-food sector, along with Irish farmers, that have come together for climate action, to meet the challenge of climate change.

Signpost Programme–Farmers for Climate Action
Pictured at the launch of the Teagasc Signpost Programme, which took place virtually on Tuesday, 18th May 2021, are (l-r) Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director; Deirdre Ryan, Director of the Origin Green and Quality Assurance Programmes with Bord Bia; Steven Fitzgerald, Dairy Signpost Programme Farmer; Dr Tom O’ Dwyer, Manager of the Signpost Programme; and Dr Siobhán Kavanagh, Signpost Programme Communications and Engagement Specialist.

Launching the Signpost Programme, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD said: “The agriculture sector has a crucial role to play in meeting the challenge of climate change, while creating resilient farms for generations to come. The Signpost programme will demonstrate solutions, how to optimise your on-farm decision making, for the benefit of both, the planet and your pocket.”

The commitment of all the farmers and organisations involved to the Signpost Programme was welcomed by Chairman of the Teagasc Authority, Liam Herlihy. He said: “Working together we can meet the climate change challenge and take positive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.”

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD said: “Agriculture has a critically important social, economic and environmental value to Ireland.  As an industry, farming has a history of embracing change and a shared desire to leave the farmed environment in a better condition for the next generation.“  

Minister of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, said: “Our response to the climate and biodiversity crisis will determine our future.  In National Biodiversity Week we are particularly conscious that our decisions around future land use will be critical.  We have to work with nature, to support farmers to implement nature based solutions to climate change.”

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Martin Heydon TD said: “I firmly believe that farmers, farm families and rural communities are part of the solution to our climate and biodiversity challenges. All sectors of the economy, including agriculture have a role to play on the journey to carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Speaking at the launch in Moorepark, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “Today’s launch of the Signpost Programme is a significant milestone for Irish agriculture.  With all parties working together, the programme can guide Irish agriculture through the changes over the next decade and support farmers as they change and adapt their farming practices.”

The Signpost programme is a multi-annual campaign to lead climate action by all Irish farmers. The programmes aims to achieve early progress in reducing gaseous emissions from Irish agriculture and also improve water quality, maintain and in some cases improving bio-diversity, reduce costs and create more profitable and sustainable farming enterprises.

It will also act as a test bed for on-farm carbon sequestration measurements so that this can, in time, be taken into account by the EPA in the national Greenhouse Gas inventory.

The objectives of the Programme are to;

  • To lead and support the transition of Irish farming towards more sustainable farming systems;
  • To reduce agricultural emissions, specifically,
  • To reduce GHG emissions to the range 17.5 – 19.0 MtCO2 by 2030; and
  • To reduce ammonia emissions by 5% below 2005 levels, currently estimated at 107.5 kT NH3, also by 2030;
  • To reduce other negative environmental impacts of agriculture, specifically, to improve water quality and to improve biodiversity; and
  • To reduce costs and improve margins from farming.

Dr Tom O’ Dwyer, Manager of the Signpost programme said: ”There are two elements to the programme; a network of Signpost Farms, which will act as demonstration farms for the programme and sites for carbon sequestration measurements; and the Signpost Advisory campaign, which will engage with all farmers and support them to move towards more sustainable farming systems.“

Two of the Signpost Farmers, beef farmer Ger McSweeney and dairy farmer Steven Fitzgerald, participated in today’s launch. They outlined the steps they will be taking to reduce emissions on their farms. Steven, who farms at Aglish in West Waterford, aims to reduce his Nitrogen use by 20% and reduce his carbon footprint to 0.80 kgCO2e per kg FPCM (fat & protein corrected milk). This figure for 2019 is 1.06 kgCO2e per kg FPCM. Ger farms near Millstreet in County Cork and he plans to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the farm by improving breeding and fertility, calving all heifers at two years of age, reducing the age at slaughter for all stock, improving grassland management and average daily gain and improving silage quality.

The signpost programme is supported by the following organisations; Teagasc, ABP, Arrabawn Co-op, Ashbourne Meat Processors, Aurivo Co-op, Bandon Co-op, Barryroe Co-op, Callan Co-op, Carbery Group Ltd., Centenary Thurles Co-op, Dairygold Co-op, Dawn Meats, Drinagh Co-op, Drombane Co-op, Foyle Food Group, Glanbia Ireland, Green Acres, Irish Farmers Journal, Kepak, Kerry Agribusiness, Kildare Chilling, Lakeland Dairies, Liffey Meats, Lisavaird Co-op, North Cork Creameries, Slaney Foods, Tipperary Co-op, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Bord Bia, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Devenish, Animal Health Ireland, ICBF, ICMSA, ICOS, ICSA, IFA, Irish Grain Growers, INHFA, Macra na Feirme, Tillage Industry Ireland, DII (Dairy Industry Ireland), DSI (Dairy Sustainability Ireland), and MII (Meat Industry Ireland).

For more details on the programme see www.teagasc.ie/signpost