Climate Action Plan 2023

The Government published its latest Climate Action plan 2023 on 21 December 2022. 

IGFA has prepared a summary of the document and the key points for members here. 

The document outlines themes, targets and measures needed to deliver GHG reduction from agriculture in the coming years. Specific to the animal feed sector it refers to the need to improve how farmers feed their animals by reducing the crude protein content of their feed and the need for improved knowledge transfers and the provision of data and analysis to farmers on the benefits of improved animal feeding.  It also highlights the need to develop a methane-reducing slurry additive and to work with all stakeholders to develop a slow-release bolus pasture-based feed additive. 
A key theme is the ‘mobilisation of land diversification options for livestock farms’ towards activities that have a reduced climate change impact. This includes moving to tillage and availing of the opportunity ‘to increase the volume of Irish grain being used in the high-value drinks industry, and as a source of protein for the livestock industry’. The target set is to have up to 360,000ha of tillage by 2025 and 400,000ha by 2030. The plan says that in 2022 there were approximately 348,500 hectares of tillage crops and that this increase was supported by a tillage incentive scheme. It also refers to the potential to produce 40,000 hectares of beans which would provide a native source of proteins.

Significant targets are also set for the domestic biomethane industry and a National Biomethane Strategy is planned for publication in the next 6 months. By 2025 the target is to  produce up to 1 TWh of biomethane rising to 5.7 TWh by 2025. To achieve this, the goal is to construct up to 20 Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants of scale by 2025 and 200 by 2030. This biomethane would be made from biological feedstocks including food waste and agricultural feedstocks such as animal manures, grass and grass silage.

IGFA Sustainability Action Plan

In June 2021 IGFA members agreed and published a Sustainability Action Plan that will focus our work on sustainability issues over the coming 18 months. 

The plan outlines commitments on key environmental themes for our industry including crude protein, methane reducing additives, sustainable soy, environmental footprinting and expanding our expertise. 

This plan will build on the many activities currently being undertaken by the Irish Feed Industry to enhance its environmental performance and help us down the path to continuous improvement. It is an important 18 months ahead as the government plans to start discussing with industry how to deliver Ag Climatise priorities and achieve climate change targets. Our action plan will help us align and work collaboratively to achieve common goals. Read the full IGFA Sustainability Action Plan.

EU Farm to Fork Strategy

The European Commission published the Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F) on 20 May 2020. This strategy aims to build more sustainable food systems in Europe. It outlines EU plans for the future on a huge range of food-related policies from feed additives to pesticide use to the future CAP. An IGFA summary of the strategy highlighting the points of interest for our members is available here.

Ag Climatise – National Climate and Air Roadmap for the Agriculture Sector

This roadmap was launched by government in December 2020. It sets out a vision for a ‘climate neutral agriculture sector by 2050’ and includes 29 specific actions aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of Irish Agriculture. IGFA has prepared a document here which summaries the main points of interest for the Irish animal feed industry.

IGFA and DAFM Crude Protein Survey

Crude protein intakes in excess of animal requirements for optimal health and production can be associated with increased greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions.

To ensure we have a clear picture on the real contribution that animal feed makes to these emissions, accurate data on crude protein levels in feed rations is necessary. IGFA therefore worked with government to gather information in Spring 2020 on crude protein levels in feed rations in 2019, 2017 and 2015. Animal feed companies around the country participated in a survey and provided reliable data on weighted average protein levels in feed and trends in levels since 2015.

The response to the survey represented 80% of overall national feed production and therefore gave an accurate picture of current protein levels in livestock rations. The results showed that average crude protein content of dairy, beef, pig and poultry feed for 2019 was 16.3%, 14.9%, 16.7% and 18.1% respectively. It concludes that overall protein levels have been following a positive environmental downward trend since 2015. The biggest reduction was in pig feed with an overall reduction of 3.5% over this period. Read the IGFA press release here.

Nitrates Derogation 2023 and Crude Protein

Under the 2023 Nitrates Derogation the general conditions state that ‘A maximum crude protein content of 15% in concentrate feed for grazing livestock must not be exceeded between April 15th and September 30th 2023. This information must be included in feed concentrate records farmers submit annually’. Full details are available on the DAFM website here.

As there is some confusion on the detail, IGFA confirmed answers to the below questions with DAFM Nitrates Division on 3 March 2023.

Question – Is this requirement only for dairy cows on the holding? Answer – No, this measure is focused on dairy cows and cattle over two years and does not apply to livestock under two years. 

– What will be the level of Crude Protein (CP) allowed in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock at grass? Answer – Bovine livestock greater than two years old, including dairy cows, fed on a 100% grass forage diet during the main grazing season will be required to comply with a maximum of 15% CP (on a fresh weight basis) between 15th April to 30th September in 2023.
Note: If higher levels of crude protein are required, this needs to be justified and certified by the appropriate advisor.

– Who qualifies as an appropriate advisor for the purpose of this certification? Answer – An appropriate advisor is the compounder, supplier of feed, nutritionist or agricultural advisor.

The nitrates derogation will run until 2025 but is subject to an interim review in 2023. This review is planned to be completed by September 2023.

Sustainable Soy

As a member of the European Feed Manufacturers’ Association FEFAC, IGFA has been involved in the discussions and debate on sustainable soy for a number of years. Along with our European colleagues we have always advocated the need for all feed ingredients to be produced in a safe and responsible way.

This is why FEFAC published the first version of the European feed industry Soy Sourcing Guidelines in August 2015. The guidelines are based on 6 themes – Legal compliance, responsible working conditions, environmental responsibility, good agricultural practices, respect for legal land use and protection of community relations.

Under each of these themes there is a range of essential and desired criteria – essentially practices that are associated with responsible soy production. Private companies can then look at their own soy certification standards and ‘benchmark’ their schemes against these criteria. If they pass the benchmarking process, they will be highlighted on The International Trade Centre (ITC) Sustainability Map.

This helps ensure market transparency on responsible soy sourcing and clarity on which private standards are in line with the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines. The FEFAC-Soy-Sourcing-Guidelines-2021 were updated in February 2021 and now include 54 essential (obligatory) criteria and 19 desired (optional) criteria. Each scheme must meet at least 8 out of 19 desired criteria to pass the benchmarking exercise. In addition, a to updating the guidelines, FEFAC also developed a transparency tool to facilitate the market transparency on ‘conversion free’ soy i.e., sourcing that does not cause or contribute to the conversion of natural ecosystems. The schemes/programmes that have applied and passed the ITC Benchmarking process against the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines 2021, including the desired criterion on conversion-free soy are Cargill Triple S Soya Products, Cefetra Certified Responsible Soya Standard, RTRS, Donau Soja, Europe Soya, ProTerra Foundation and Sustainable Farming Assurance Programme.

Environmental Footprinting

The Commission has embarked on an ambitious three-year project to develop standard methods to measure and communicate a product’s environmental foot-print PEF Pilot: These pilots are aimed at establishing methods to measure environmental performance throughout the lifecycle process. The aim is to provide principles for communicating environmental performance, such as transparency, reliability, completeness, comparability and clarity for the consumer. The feed industry is involved with the second wave of these pilots. The final outcome will be guidelines on how (feed) businesses may in the future label products so the consumer can make an informed choice. Information on the feed pilot and stakeholder involvement is available here.