Conservation practices at the farm of Gareth Culligan in Stabannon, Castlebellingham, were the focus for an official EU delegation visit to Co. Louth this week (Tuesday 18th September).
Led by Mairead McGuinness MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament, the Agricultural Committee delegation saw first-hand what Ms McGuinness described as “an exemplar of sustainable agricultural practices.”
Gareth is Secretary of BASE (Biodiversity, Agriculture, Soil & Environment) Ireland, an organisation of farmers, agronomists and agriculture professionals involved in conservation agriculture, promoting systems of crop and animal production which work to ensure soil health, biodiversity and environmental delivery.
Louis McAuley, BASE chairman, and Robbie Byrne also met with the delegation.
The visit of the Agriculture Committee coincided with the National Ploughing Championships and was organised to give MEPs a picture of Irish agriculture, including the consequences of Brexit on the sector.
“This visit is timely given the ongoing work in the European Parliament on the reform of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) which will require higher environmental ambition on farms throughout Europe,” McGuinness explained.
“BASE Ireland does excellent work in operating and promoting holistic farm management to maximize crop yields but not at the expense of the environment and biodiversity.
“These farmers work with nature and a key part of the system is to have continuous green cover to protect and promote soil health. “
The group highlighted their strategy to use agro chemicals to the minimum consistent with their “farming with nature” approach.
The Commission’s current CAP proposals for the post 2020 period require that all basic payments will be 100pc linked to environmental measures and highlight the importance of crop rotation.
“BASE Ireland is playing a very important role in promoting the conservation of Irish soils through minimal soil disturbance, diverse rotations and permanent organic soil cover, Ms McGuinness explained.
The group are committed to advancing the knowledge and uptake of conservation agriculture and take inspiration from BASE counterparts in both France and the UK.
In November 2017, Mairead McGuinness brought a delegation from BASE Ireland to Brussels to attend a meeting with Commissioner Hogan on his CAP proposals.
“On that occasion I promised to bring parliamentarians to visit farms in Ireland. We’ve done that this week and they could not but be impressed by what they saw,” she said.
The delegation of MEPs spent three full days in Ireland including a visit to Slane village and a day long visit to the National Ploughing Championships.