Martin wins Farming for Nature Award

Posted in Connect on October 31, 2018.

ACHILL farmer Martin Calvey, of Achill Mountain Lamb, has won the inaugural Farming for Nature Award. One of six short-listed farmers, he was announced as winner by MEP Mairead McGuinness at a special ceremony in Kinvara, Co. Galway, on Saturday. Ms. McGuinness said the awards highlight the reality that many farmers are acutely conscious of the environment and work every day in harmony with it.Positive role models of farmers ‘farming for nature’ are essential, she said, and we now have role models who are practical farmers, producing food, trying to make a living from the land and doing it with an holistic approach where the environmental challenges are part and parcel of their everyday activities.

“These finalists provide examples from many parts of the country of how care for the environment is core to their farming enterprise. This is a positive farming story – all too often we only hear about what is wrong about farming,” she stated. She said it’s time to spread the word that environmental issues must be at the core of all farming enterprises, as they already are on many farms. “It’s also high time to bridge the artificial divide between environmentalists and farmers, which leads to unnecessary and unhelpful conflict and delays further action,” she said.

“Farmers today are conscious of environmental issues, yet they sometimes feel under attack from those who claim to be environmentalist. Pressure on the natural environment, on biodiversity, air quality and soils are real, but so too is farmer awareness of these challenges. What farmers need is help and support to deliver for the environment and that support includes advisory systems which focus on integrating environmental delivery with production.” Ms. McGuinness said awareness of these important issues are high on the political agenda, with proposed reform of the CAP calling for greater environment delivery.

The proposed new delivery model is designed to give member states more control over how CAP objectives are met. Of the nine strategic objectives in the proposed CAP reforms, three focus on the environment, three on social issues and three on economic issues.”Climate change mitigation and adaption, sustainable energy, sustainable development and efficient management of natural resources such as water, soil and air; biodiversity, ecosystem services and preservation of habitats and landscapes are highlighted in the reforms. “In future, mandatory requirements will include preserving carbon-rich soils, through protection of wetlands and peatlands, nutrient management tools to protect water quality, reducing ammonia and nitrous oxide levels and crop rotation.”

The MEP has long called for farmers to take back control of the environment agenda and speak out about what they are doing to protect and enhance it.“Farmers are too often portrayed as the problem rather than the solution,” she said.And she said the only people who can protect and enhance our environment are farmers, who are the boots on the ground.“The look and feel of our varied countryside is down to the work of our farmers managing and maintaining that landscape.“Today we know more about how fragile our environment is, how biodiversity is under threat, how inappropriate use of agri-chemicals can contaminate our waters.
“We also have the knowledge and wherewithal to address these issues. Today farming is much more than about maximising production. It’s also about the environmental impacts of how we produce, what we produce and where we produce.”Ms. McGuinness expressed concern about the relatively low incomes earned from farming and how for many farm families, off-farm income is essential for survival.

Turning to the awards themselves she said the finalists are true leaders.“They are best in class and they are setting the standards and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.”The ceremony marked the end of The Burren Winterage School, an annual conference on High Nature Value Farming and sustainable farming which brings together farmers, researchers, farm advisors and government representatives to share perspectives and ideas on sustainable pastoral land management.This year’s theme was ‘Farming for Nature’. Ms. McGuinness said great credit was due to the organisers for an excellent and comprehensive programme of activities. She complimented the Burren Programme, managed by Brendan Dunford, describing it as one of the EUs flagship environmental programmes delivering for the community, with sustainable farming practices at its core.

Connaught Telegraph 29th October 2018

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