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Farmers ‘demoralised by blame game’

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Schemes “supporting sustainable agricultural production” need to be embraced to help a “demoralised” farming sector, one elected member of Clare County Council has declared.

Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) at the November meeting of the local authority acknowledged the “huge difficulties faced by farm families and the agri sector” as he called on Oireachtas members, MEPs and the Minister for Agriculture “to be much more proactive and help rescue an industry in crisis”.

Farming families are struggling with their income, the Corofin representative outlined. He believed the Mercosur Deal “succeeded in increasing the amount of beef into the EU” and “Brexit has taught us that we need to diversify”.

Dutch and Algerian markets need to be encouraged, the former INTO President felt as he urged MEPs and TDs to progress the sale of dairy products in China. “The blame game is demoralising farmers in Ireland, they need to produce enough beef to feed 15 million people”.

A “reappraisal” is required by the personnel responsible for measuring “carbon scores” according to Cllr Killeen. “Dairy is the most eco-friendly system of production, Ireland is a good place to produce those projects. Farmers are willing to embrace the need to change practices. We have 500km of hedgerows in the country that can act as a carbon sink”. He felt the Burren Life Scheme required an extension, “We need to support schemes that support sustainable agricultural production”.

“There is a lot in what Cllr Killeen has said,” Cllr Pat Burke (FG) commented as he seconded the motion but clarified he did not support the call to get the Minister “to carry out actions”. The Whitegate councillor referenced funding offered from the EU and Irish Government and said only €78m had been applied for with €22m not being drawn down.

Burke continued, “Suckler farmers aren’t getting much money but they are not applying for this funding either. There is €22m not going down when the industry is in crisis, just because there was an environmental condition €22m is going back, we’re either caring for the environment or improving our incomes”. He is fearful what the EU will say “when the next crisis comes” because “they’ll be saying we didn’t draw it down”.

Responding to the views expressed, Killeen acknowledged that money was returned. “Farmers were expected to reduce their animal number by 5%, the national herd is 14 cows so you were required to bring it down to 13 but your neighbour may not have been required to do that”.

He said farmers could not afford this reduction as “there was a fear there would be a quota established on their farm based on the reduced numbers in 2020. It would damage viability of farming enterprise and land on which the family is dependent on. We have to think smart to support the farmers”. In response, Cllr Burke said the next round of CAP reform would have a percentage towards environmental measures.

Support for Cllr Killeen’s motion was vocalised by Cllr Roisin Garvey (GP). “I don’t think the future is meat, the sooner we support that the better. We’re talking about meat and dairy, we need to talk about it locally, we’re not all Larry Goodman, we have small farmers struggling in West Clare”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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