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Brexit and climate change are top of the agenda for Calor CAFRE Bursary Sponsorship Awardees

CAFRE Blog Post

Brexit and climate change are seen as two of the biggest issues at hand when it comes to impacting the Irish farming and horticulture sector in the coming decade. Two young farmers share their thoughts as they begin their education journey and look at the future of the industries.

Kirsty Wallace and Angus McCombe found that a change in legislation when Brexit was announced is causing a growing mountain of paperwork for imports and exports, as well as changes on labour payment schemes. This is causing some farmers to miss out on important live export sales, while also having to juggle the struggle with labour shortages in both agriculture and horticulture.

The thoughts and findings come from the winners of the Calor sponsored student bursary sponsorship in conjunction with Discover CAFRE - College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise.

Kirsty says that the impact of Brexit on farming is already visible, with pedigree breeders finding it far more difficult to export live animals overseas.

“This causes challenges for many areas of farming, in particular for breeding. Many farmers buy stock such as ram lambs or breeding bulls from the United Kingdom, therefore the isolation period could mean they may not get the animal out in time to reach peak fertility.”

Labour has also been impacted by Brexit across both sectors as Kirsty outlined that “farmers are being forced to transition away from EU common agricultural policy as payment schemes are being phased out,” meaning that labour shortages are occurring. Angus echoed this growing challenge, as he noted that “the horticultural industry is now struggling to have enough people working on nursery production and crop picking.”

Climate change is also causing concern in both industries. A report on greenhouse gas emissions for Northern Ireland by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs showed that the agriculture sector accounted for the highest number of emissions in Northern Ireland at 27% in 2018.[i] The Climate Change Bill which has set a net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 holds a significant test to both the agricultural and horticultural sector’s ability to adapt.

UK government opposition to peat-based compost is an added weight of concern, with peat bogs being described as “one of the most powerful tools in combating climate change,” said Angus. He continued that peat is quite a useful tool for both horticulture and agriculture as it is cheap and holds a large amount of moisture, leaving a challenge in testing affordable, effective, and sustainable peat alternatives.

Both Kirsty and Angus found that the 2020s are presenting unprecedented demands and trying times for agriculture and horticulture, with Brexit and climate issues taking the centre hold of challenges facing both sectors.

Their research has shown the need to act and adapt in order to reduce climate change within various industries, particularly in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, while also managing the impact on legislation and policy change from Brexit.

Congratulations to both Kirsty and Angus on their incredible research and we look forward to seeing you progress in your education and career paths! Calor is delighted to support you along the journey through the bursary sponsorship award.



[i] Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Statistical bulletin on greenhouse gas emissions for Northern Ireland, during the period 1990-2018: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/northern-ireland-greenhouse-gas-statistics-1990-2018-released