Comparing economic performance with greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen surplus on Irish Farms
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CitationLynch, John. Comparing economic performance with greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen surplus on Irish Farms. Contributed Paper prepared for presentation at the 91st Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Ireland, 24 – 26 April 2017
AbstractThe need to reduce the environmental footprint of agricultural production is widely recognised. At the same time, agricultural production must be sufficient to feed the expanding human population. It has been argued that this production can be achieved through sustainable intensification, with efficient intensive farms optimal for both environmental and economic performance. This paper explores this concept by comparing farm financial performance (gross margins per hectare and family farm income per labour unit) with two key environmental metrics, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen surpluses, on Irish farms from the 2015 Teagasc National Farm Survey. Overall, farms with better economic performance tend to have lower emissions per unit agricultural output, and obtain more agricultural output per kg surplus nitrogen applied. However, the intensive production on these economically better performing farms is also associated with greater emissions and nitrogen surpluses per hectare farmed. These results are discussed in the context of current debate surrounding agricultural policy in Ireland, where ambitions to increase agricultural production will be challenged to meet environmental targets, and in relation to wider debates around the best path for sustainable agricultural production.
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