*Conor O’Leary speaking at the meeting. Photograph: Tom Micks. 

FARMERS in Clare are under extreme pressure due to regulations being imposed on them by European officials and the Irish Government, a meeting has heard.

A meeting was held on the farm of Rosaleen O’Reilly, Castlefergus, Quin recently as part of the Irish Farmer’s Association (IFA) ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign which aims to highlight the positives of farming while raising awareness around the red tape restrictions local farmers are faced with.

The meeting was chaired by Clare IFA Co-chairman Stephen Walshe, a beef farmer from Feakle. Mr Walshe was highly critical of the decision to cut Ireland’s nitrates derogation limits from 250kg of organic nitrogen per hectare to 220kg per hectare.

Speaking about the decision to host the meeting at Ms O’Reilly’s farm, Mr Walsh said, “Rosaleen is a dairy farmer and has huge concerns around this nitrate derogation. What that means is basically she’ll be asked to keep less cows than she currently has.

“Rosaleen has 52 cows so any reduction in her herd will have a huge impact on her income and a huge impact in terms of whether she will be able to continue farming or not,” he told The Clare Echo. “Rosaleen farms to a very high standard, she is farming beside a water cursor so obviously water quality is very important to her. She is doing her bit for biodiversity, she is planting hedge rows and planting trees, and talked about investing in solar.”

There are 70,000 beef cows in Clare and 190,000 other cattle and Mr Walsh outlined that beef farmers are also under “extreme pressure”. “They’re frustrated because no matter which way they go there’s an attitude of a problem with the way they farm. There’s even a suggestion of a cull which is ridiculous.”

(ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY TOM MICKS)

He argued that farmers and policy-makers need to work together to work towards the common goal of reducing emissions, “In terms of climate change, the agriculture sector probably has the most to offer but they think we can do it on a shoe-string and that area has to be looked at.”

There are 6,297 farming families in Clare with over 20 per cent of the working population in Clare involved in agri-related jobs. Mr Walsh warned that the future of farming practices in Clare are very much in danger at the moment.

“When you go back to the average age of a farmer, it’s 59 years. That in itself tells its own story. Why is it so high? It’s so high because the younger generation are better educated and they’re not going to spend their lives living with this stuff and if that is the case, who is going to produce our food in the future?”

The meeting was attended by a number of local politicians however of the three MEP candidates who were all invited, only Eddie Punch attended while Michael Leahy and Independent TD Michael McNamara did not.

Mr Walsh noted, “If we’re to get our message across in Europe, they need to hear what we’ve to say and obviously if they don’t turn up, how can they hear what we’ve to say?”

Mr Walsh and local IFA representatives met with Clare county councillors in February of this year to highlight the campaign and the meeting at Ms O’Reilly’s farm was a result of that.

In March, protests by farmers in Brussels turned violent and Mr Walshe stressed, “We saw what happened across Europe and how they’re trying to fight, really do we want to see that level of anger out on the streets in Ireland? I don’t want to be involved in that space and isn’t it sad if we have to go down that road.”

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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