Clare farmers have voiced their concern about the lack of young people viewing farming as a viable profession while environmental guidelines were also slammed.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue was in Ennis Mart on Monday where he spent approximately three hours engaging with Clare farmers. The session was interrupted when the Minister was called to a virtual fisheries briefing with EU representatives.
General Secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Eddie Punch spoke of Clare as “the home of the suckler farm”. He detailed that a real issue the ICSA were working on tackling was to fight for the delivery of “real money to real farmers producing quality meat”.
Cratloe based Punch voiced his annoyance at the illustration of farmers by environmentalists. “I know you have to listen to the environmental side of it but I am sick of listening to hippy dippies and tree huggers telling us we need to do more for the environment”.
He called for an agri-environment scheme to be included in plans for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that supports sheep and suckler farmers and noted that “a Brazilian getting off the plane at Shannon Airport” and going to work on a building site for two weeks was earning more than farmers in the area.
Farming’s future was a concern referenced on Monday with Patrick Crowe pessimistic on the subject. “Can you see any young man in the room that is not a politician. I can’t. All of us here are grown men. The next time you come Minister there will be ten percent less and ten percent less the time after that, then there will be none”. “Unless we encourage more young men, we will have less and less people farming,” Crowe warned.
Veteran Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICSMA) representative, Martin McMahon cautioned that a “huge impact” to the Clare economy was likely if there was to be a cut in the next round of CAP. “Everyone here has spent huge money protecting the environment,” he added in response to comments from Punch. “We have the perfect climate for producing food in Ireland, growing grass and tillage, why should we be cutting back”.
Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) noted that without the farming community, the environment locally “would not be protected”. “Whether it is Scariff, Kilrush or Kilfenora, we need farmers,” he stated.