• Can’t See the Wood for the Trees: The Returns to Farm Forestry in Ireland

      Breen, J.; Clancy, D.; Ryan, Mary; Wallace, Michael (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2010)
      The period 2007-2009 witnessed considerable variability in the price of outputs such as milk and cereals and this was compounded by a high degree of volatility in the price of inputs such as fertilizer, animal feed and energy. Previously, Irish farms have used the returns to off-farm employment as well as agricultural support payments such as the Single Farm Payment (SFP) and the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) to protect their living standards against low and uncertain agricultural market returns. However, the downturn in the Irish economy has led to a reduction in the availability of off-farm employment and also the discontinuation of REPS. This may lead to an increase in afforestation on Irish farms, as forestry offers greater certainty through the provision of an annual premium in addition to the SFP. However, the decision to afforest represents a significant long-term investment decision that should not be entered into without careful economic consideration. The aim of this paper is to use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis method to calculate the returns to forestry under alternative opportunity costs associated with conventional agricultural activities being superseded. The returns to forestry are calculated using the Forestry Investment Value Estimator (FIVE). These returns were then incorporated in the DCF model along with the returns to five conventional agricultural enterprises, which would potentially be superseded by forestry. This approach allows for the calculation of the Net Present Value (NPV) of three forestry scenarios.
    • Developing a microsimulation model for farm forestry planting decisions

      Ryan, Mary; O’Donoghue, Cathal (International Microsimulation Association, 2018)
      There is increasing pressure in Europe to convert land from agriculture to forestry which would enable the sequestration of additional carbon, thereby mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas production. However, there is little or no information available on the drivers of the land use change decision from agriculture to forestry at individual farm level, which is complicated by the inter-temporal nature of the decision.This paper describes a static microsimulation approach which provides a better understanding of the life-cycle relativity of forestry and agricultural incomes, using Ireland as a casestudy. The microsimulation methodology allows for the generation of actual and counterfactual forest and agricultural income streams and for other attributes of utility such as long-term wealth and leisure, for the first time. These attributes are then modelled using purpose built forest models and farm microdata from a 30 year longitudinal dataset. The results show the importance of financial drivers but additionally show that wealth and leisure are also important factors in this inter-temporal land use change decision. By facilitating the examination of the distribution of farms across the farming population, the use of a static microsimulation approach allows us to make a considerable contribution to the literature in relation to the underlying drivers of farm afforestation behaviour. In the broader context of Climate Smart Agriculture and the Grand Challenges facing the intensification of agricultural production, these findings have implications for policies that seek to optimize natural resource use.
    • Developing farm-level sustainability indicators for Ireland using the Teagasc National Farm Survey

      Ryan, Mary; Hennessy, Thia; Buckley, Cathal; Dillon, Emma; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Moran, Brian (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2016-12-30)
      In the context of an expanding, export-dependent agri-food sector, indicators of sustainable development and intensification are necessary to measure, assess and verify the comparative advantage afforded by Ireland’s natural pastoral-based food production systems. Such indicators are also necessary to ensure that we produce more food with less adverse impacts on the Irish environment, climate and society. This article outlines the development of farm-level indicators that refect the multifaceted nature of sustainability, which is encompassed in economic, environmental and social indicators. The role of innovation in farm sustainability was also examined. A comparison of indicators across Irish farm systems showed that dairy farms, followed by tillage farms, tended to be the most economically and socially sustainable farm systems. In relation to greenhouse gas emissions in particular, the top-performing dairy farms, in an economic sense, also tended to be the best-performing farms from an environmental sustainability perspective. This trend was also evident in relation to the adoption of innovative practices on farm, which was found to be strongly correlated with economic performance.

      O’Donoghue, Cathal; Chyzheuskaya, Aksana; Grealis, Eoin; Finnegan, William; Goggin, Jamie; Hynes, Stephen; Kilcline, Kevin; Ryan, Mary; Science Foundation Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; et al. (INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL ON FOOD SYSTEM DYNAMICS, 2018)
      Sustainable intensification is one of the greatest challenges facing the agri-food sector which needs to produce more food to meet increasing global demand, while minimising negative environmental impacts such as agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sustainable intensification relates not just to primary production, but also has wider value chain implications. An input-output model is a modelling framework which contains the flows across a value chain within a country. Input-output (IO) models have been disaggregated to have finer granular detail in relation to agricultural sub-sectoral value chains. National IO models with limited agricultural disaggregation have been developed to look at carbon footprints and within agriculture to look at the carbon footprint of specific value chains. In this paper we adapt an agriculturally disaggregated IO model to analyse the source of emissions in different components of agri-food value chains. We focus on Ireland, where emissions from agriculture comprise nearly 30% of national emissions and where there has been a major expansion and transformation in agriculture since the abolition of milk quota restrictions. In a substantial Annex to this paper, we describe the modelling assumptions made in developing this model. Breaking up the value chain into components, we find that most value is generated at the processing stage of the value chain, with greater processing value in more sophisticated value chains such as dairy processing. On the other hand, emissions are in general highest in primary production, albeit emissions from purchased animal feed being higher for poultry than for other value chains, given the lower direct emissions from poultry than from ruminants or sheep. The analysis highlights that emissions per unit of output are much higher for beef and sheep meat value chains than for pig and poultry meat value chains.
    • Methodological Framework for Modelling the Impact of the Agriculture to Forestry Land Use Change at the Farm Level

      O'Donoghue, Cathal; Ryan, Mary; Environmental Protection Agency (2020-10-13)
      There is a growing literature on the use of microsimulation models for agriculture, forestry and land use change (Richardson et al., 2014). Much of this literature addresses issues related to productivity and incomes (O’Donoghue, 2014), however consistent with an increasing global focus on sustainability, there is also increasing interest in combining analyses of both economic and environmental impacts (Ramilan et al., 2011). A sub-field of agricultural microsimulation addresses issues associated with land-use change from agriculture to forestry and vice versa (Ryan and O’Donoghue, 2019; Phimmavong & Keenan, 2020) and vice versa. The former transition is particularly important as it helps to mitigate significant carbon emissions from agriculture. This paper describes the development of a model that incorporates both economic and environmental dimensions of the land-use change from agriculture to forestry.
    • Modelling the Marginal Abatement Cost of Mitigating Nitrogen Loss from Agricultural Land

      Chyzheuskaya, Aksana; O'Donoghue, Cathal; Buckley, Cathal; Ryan, Mary; green, stuart; Gibson, Mark (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2012)
      With the deadline identified by the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) approaching in 2015 there is increasing pressure on policymakers to introduce new regulations to achieve water quality targets. Agriculture is one of the contributors of diffuse pollution entering watercourses and will come under pressure to reduce pollutant loads. This paper produces Marginal Abatement Cost (MAC) Curves for eight policy measures that could potentially reduce nitrate leaching from agricultural land on Irish dairy farms. These include: 1) reduction of fertiliser application by 10%; 2) reduction of fertiliser application by 20%; 3) livestock unit reduction to limit organic N to 170 kg ha-1; 4) reduction of livestock units by 20%; 5) change of feed mix to reduce cow dietary N intake; 6) fencing off watercourses to introduce a buffer zone; 7) improved dairy cow genetic merit by introducing higher performing dairy breeds; 8) more efficient slurry application. Results from this study indicate that there will be reductions in farm gross margins across nearly all policy measures. However, MAC and the ranking of MAC vary across individual farms and aggregate MAC does not reflect the heterogeneity of impacts across individual farms. This paper shows that any measure introduced in a “one size fits all command-control” fashion will not yield efficient economic results.
    • The physical, economic and policy drivers of land conversion to forestry in Ireland

      Upton, Vincent; O'Donoghue, Cathal; Ryan, Mary; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Elsevier, 27/11/2013)
      Land use change is fundamentally a product of the interaction of physical land characteristics, economic considerations and agricultural and environmental policies. Researchers are increasingly combining physical and socio-economic spatial data to investigate the drivers of land-use change in relation to policy and economic developments. Focusing on Ireland, this study develops a panel data set of annual afforestation over 2811 small-area boundaries between 1993 and 2007 from vector and raster data sources. Soil type and other physical characteristics are combined with the net returns of converting agricultural land to forestry, based on the micro-simulation of individual farm incomes, to investigate land conversion. A spatial econometric approach is adopted to model the data and a range of physical, economic and policy factors are identified as having a significant effect on afforestation rates. In addition to the financial returns, the availability and quality of land and the implementation of environmental protection policies are identified as important factors in land conversion. The implications of these factors for the goal of forest expansion are discussed in relation to conflicting current and future land use policies.
    • Policy Incentives and the Organic Value Chain in Ireland

      O’Donoghue, Cathal; Ryan, Mary; Clavin, Dan; Heery, Declan; Leavy, Elaine; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL ON FOOD SYSTEM DYNAMICS, 2017)
      Merged administration data are utilized to study farms that have converted to organic beef production in Ireland, to draw lessons for future CAP scheme design. Results show the complex structure of organic farms with lower cattle age progression than in non-organic systems, suggesting leakage to conventional agriculture. There is also a flow of animals as they age from poorer land in the West to better Eastern areas that are more suitable for finishing, however the flow is less for organic farms. Additionally, there is less specialisation on organic farms as more animals are finished, so leakage is less than expected.
    • The Potential Economic Returns of Converting Agricultural Land to Forestry: An Analysis of System and Soil Effects from 1995 to 2009

      Upton, Vincent; Ryan, Mary; Farrelly, Niall; O'Donoghue, Cathal; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Society of Irish Foresters, 05/07/2013)
      Private land owners have been responsible for the majority of annual afforestation in Ireland since the mid1990s, but planting rates have generally been declining since 2002. Although the decision to plant may be driven by a number of factors, the profitability of forestry as a landuse option should be an important driver and offer some insight into trends in afforestation rates. As farmers undertake most afforestation in Ireland it is important to account for the opportunity cost of lost agricultural income when analysing the financial outcome of planting. In addition, soil quality plays an essential role in dictating the productivity and profitability of both agriculture and forestry. This study examines the effects of soil quality and superseded agricultural system on the potential profitability of afforestation by farmers between 1995 and 2009. Data from the National Farm Survey were employed to identify the annual gross margins for six agricultural systems on six soil types that differ in terms of quality. The measures of soil quality were translated into potential yield classes for forestry using an existing productivity model and Teagasc’s Forest Investment and Valuation Estimator was employed to calculate the net present value of afforestation for each of the systems and soil types. The results demonstrate how the competitiveness of forestry as a landuse option is influenced by soil quality and superseded enterprise and how forestry has become more competitive with agricultural enterprises over the period of analysis.
    • A Response to the Draft National Mitigation Plan. Teagasc submission to the Department of Communications, Climate Action & theEnvironment

      Lanigan, Gary; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Gultzer, Carsten; Forrestal, Patrick J.; Farrelly, Niall; Shalloo, Laurence; O’Brien, Donal; Ryan, Mary; Murphy, Pat; et al. (Teagasc, 2017-04)
      This submission details the mitigation potential of agriculture to shortly be published as an update to the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) for Agriculture and and describes how the MACC mitigation strategies relate to the measures in the National Mitigation Plan.
    • The role of extension and forest characteristics in understanding the management decisions of new forest owners in Ireland

      Upton, Vincent; Ryan, Mary; Heanue, Kevin; Ni Dhubhain, Aine (Elsevier, 2017-10-14)
      Many European countries have seen significant changes in forest ownership structure, with the emergence of a cohort commonly referred to as new forest owners, mainly within the non-industrial, private forest (NIPF) owner group. The drivers of this change differ between countries but these owners frequently lack an existing knowledge base to draw on regarding forest management decisions and practices and may possess different objectives to traditional owners. As a result there is uncertainty concerning the management intentions of these owners. The provision of extension services is a recognised approach to supporting decision-making by NIPF owners but there have been relatively few studies that have sought to quantify the effectiveness of such initiatives in terms of management outcomes. In addition to measuring the outcome of extension initiatives, exploring the positive or negative outcomes can assist with the design of future initiatives. Ensuring that such initiatives are designed for appropriate phases in the forest life-cycle is important. This paper reports the results from a number of surveys that sought to explore the impact of an extension initiative, a thinning demonstration, on actual management outcomes and what characteristics of owners and their forests might explain observed management decisions. A retrospective pre-post test questionnaire was used at the demonstration to capture knowledge impacts and management intentions. A follow up survey was conducted 18 months later to investigate what, if any, practices had been undertaken. Data from a national household survey of land owners were also analysed to investigate whether the observations from the demonstration had significance for the wider population. The results suggest that the demonstration was successful in imparting knowledge to forest owners both in terms of self-reported learning and actual management outcomes. However, from an Irish perspective management decisions are dominated by forest age as the majority of the private estate is still in its first rotation. This presents a challenge to extension service personnel and to research seeking to explain management practices at a national level.
    • The Sustainable Intensification of the Irish Dairy Sector

      Dillon, Emma Jane; Hennessy, Thia; Buckley, Cathal; Donnellan, Trevor; Hanrahan, Kevin; Moran, Brian; Ryan, Mary (Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, 2014)
      The concept of sustainability is one of the forefront issues in global agricultural production at present, given mounting pressure to increase food production in both a socially responsible and environmentally friendly way. From an Irish perspective the sustainable intensification of agriculture is of particular relevance given ambitious targets to increase milk production by 50 percent by 2020, in the context of European milk quota removal. Alongside this, environmental targets may be specified, meaning that expansion would have to be achieved in a sustainable way. To evaluate dairy farm-level sustainability a series of indicators are developed here using Teagasc National Farm Survey FADN (Farm Accountancy Data Network) data for Ireland from 2012. Three dimensions, reflecting the multifaceted nature of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) are considered. Given the environmental challenges inherent in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, it is encouraging to observe that the more intensive, top performing farms (in an economic sense) emit relatively less greenhouse gases when compared to their less intensive counterparts. Conversely, the better performing farms in economic terms tend to have higher nitrogen surplus per hectare on average. This is consistent with their higher rates of production intensity but poses a challenge in terms of sustainable expansion. That said this analysis demonstrates that the nitrogen use efficiency of milk production is positively correlated with economic performance, with more intensive farms producing relatively more milk per kg of nitrogen surplus. From a social perspective demography also tends to be correlated with economic performance. These indicators allow for the continued assessment of the sustainability status of Irish farming.
    • Teagasc submission made in response to the Discussion document for the preparation of a National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy

      Henchion, Maeve; Devaney, Laura; Caslin, Barry; Fenton, Owen; Fenelon, Mark; Finn, Sean; Finnan, John; Ní Fhlatharta, Nuala; Gaffney, Michael; Hayes, Maria; et al. (Teagasc, 2017-09-19)
      This document is Teagasc’s response to the “Discussion Document for the Preparation of a National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy” issued by the Department of the Taoiseach’s Economic Division in July 2017. It recognises the potential significance of the bioeconomy to Ireland, offers some policy and strategic insights from other countries, and identifies Teagasc’s role in supporting the development of the bioeconomy in Ireland.
    • Trends and influential factors of high ecological status mobility in Irish Rivers

      O'Donoghue, Cathal; Meng, Yuting; Ryan, Mary; Kilgarriff, Paul; Zhang, Chaosheng; Bragina, Lyubov; Daly, Karen; Environmental Protection Agency (Elsevier BV, 2021-11-10)
      The decline in high ecological water status in rivers is a significant concern in European countries. It is thus important to investigate the factors that cause sites to lose high status in order to undertake measures to protect and restore high status water quality. Analysis of 20 years of water quality data reveals strong mobility between high status and non-high status (especially good status) rivers. Associations between this mobility and socio-economic and physical environmental variables were estimated by multinomial logistic regression at national scale and regional scale. Based on reported changes in water quality status cross across 1990, 2000 and 2010, four classes of the mobility of high status were defined in this study: those sites that maintain high status (maintain), enter high status (enter), fluctuate between high and non-high status (fluctuate) and exit from high status (exit). The national results indicate that agricultural activity as indicated by variables representing intensity of livestock farming (organic nitrogen) and tillage farming (cereal share) and elevation had significant negative impacts on high status rivers. Meanwhile, significant differences in population density and septic tank density between ‘exit’, ‘maintain’, ‘fluctuate’ and ‘enter’ classes indicate that these factors played important roles in the stability of high status rivers. The regional outcomes reveal differential significant pressures across regions. For example, rainfall and elevation had positive impacts on high status rivers in the north-west region, while organic nitrogen had a negative effect in the south-west. This paper demonstrates the challenge in achieving the Water Framework Directive goal of maintaining high status rivers, given the sensitive and highly differentiated nature of areas that have lost high status or fluctuated in and out of high status. This paper also suggests the necessity for localised policies and mitigation measures.