Land, Labour, Housing, Money, Farms: Moving the economic goalposts of Irish agriculture

This Feasta working paper explores the potential for cross-sectoral economic measures to ease expansionist pressure in agriculture in Ireland.

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Summary

This paper is intended to help fill a gap in the conversation about Irish agriculture: it examines how the broader economic context affects agriculture, and how certain upstream economic changes could be beneficial for agriculture in the future.

In order to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement, the Irish Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, and the reformed Common Agricultural Policy’s environmental objectives, the paper asserts that there is a need for much stronger and more easily enforceable environmental regulations, including the imposition of ‘upstream’ caps on the supply of fossil fuels and fossil-fuel-derived inputs, and strengthened biodiversity protection laws.

The paper argues that it will be considerably easier for the economy to successfully adapt to these strengthened regulations if economic objectives are reoriented away from GDP growth as an end in itself, and towards human and ecological wellbeing. In addition to a change in focus and vision at the EU governance level, it proposes several measures that could potentially ease the current expansionist pressure within the economy, making it more flexible and resilient and better able to meet societal needs within ecological constraints.

The paper explores the possible effects of these cross-sectoral measures on the economy as a whole, and on the Irish agricultural sector. It discusses and recommends:

• The introduction of a Universal Basic Income of €250 per week for all adult residents of Ireland, along with a strengthened ‘social wage’ including improved social services
• Reforms in taxation policy, including the introduction of a Site Value Tax on built property in order to curb speculation on property values and rent inflation, and enable a reduction of taxes on labour
• Systemic interventions on debt at the Eurozone level to help to stabilise the value of over- commodified assets, including housing
• At the Irish State level, interventions on unsustainable debt, including some farm business debt, through debt restructuring and place-based debt-for-equity swaps, using a governance framework that guarantees that farmland will be preserved as farmland in perpetuity and is affordable for farmers to lease
• An expansion of derelict housing restoration and retrofitting programmes in rural areas of Ireland to provide affordable and social housing
• The provision of stakeholder banking, such as mutual and public banking, along with Community Wealth Building procurement policies

Download the complete paper (pdf)

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