Andrew Bergin: Organic farming can solve our environmental problems, but it’s not just farmers who need to change
Simple solutions are rarely the answer to complex problems.
trying to deal with a cap reform scale problem with sound bites is like doing brain surgery with a chainsaw.
The CAP has profound implications for everything from food and fresh air, to biodiversity, water quality and the rural economy.
It is being redesigned in the eye of the storm of Brexit, Covid and climate change.
With so much background noise, one is tempted to shout louder to be heard and to reduce the arguments to simple messages.
The enormity of the changes can put us on the defensive just when we need to be creative.
Agriculture is a very complex operation that does not lend itself to reduction to single problems: change in one area usually has implications in many others.
Organic farming works on this basis and is only successful if approached as a system – a system that addresses most of the areas the CAP needs to cover.
It is based on healthy soils, which increase biodiversity, improve water quality, require fewer synthetic inputs and store more carbon.
That’s a lot of ticked boxes but of course it’s not that simple.
Developing a national plan around organic farming requires a lot of changes from farmers, legislators, advisers and industry.
It’s never been done before, so why should Ireland think she can be the first?
We have excellent soils here and, compared to many countries, they are still young and quite intact.
We are about to launch a national soil sampling program that will be much more detailed than anything that has been done here before.
This could be the basis for a national organic farming plan that would allow us to meet our environmental obligations while producing food that lives up to the green image we sell.
To implement such a plan, we will have to dismantle the silos in which we protect ourselves.
All experts who specialize in knowing more and more about less and less will have to start knitting their individual disciplines in a garment adapted to the climate in which we live.
It’s not without risk, but neither of our other options.
The consultation on CAP reform is ongoing, and once completed, the opportunity for fundamental change will pass until the next cycle.
If we are not constructive and assertive in our approach to reform, attention will turn to the fools who cling to setbacks – and we will live with the consequences.
Andrew Bergin is a farmer based near Athy, Co Kildare