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ON THE FARM: Farm politics becoming too divisive

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American politics has been in the spotlight of the world this past week, it is a divisive area but so too is farming politics.

By Joe Melody

The past week has brought a huge shift in politics with it now seeming certain that Joe Biden will be the 46th president of America come January. One would hope that “sleepy Joe” as Trump would call him wont be so sleepy in sitting down at the negotiating table to try and reduce the Tariffs on Irish food products that are costing us €40 million a year, all these Tariffs emanating from a row over the EU heavily subsidising Airbus. I would hope what would come out of this presidency is a renewal of the strong ties that bind us as nations and that while Tariffs on trade may be an effective bargaining tool in the short term, over the long term it damages trade and good will between trading blocks.

America appears to be going into a period of transition in relation to who resides in the White House so too are most farmyards around the county with most farmers now housing some if not all of their cattle.

This week at home we moved to housing the milking herd full-time as we have now reached our target of grazing off 100% of the platform, we have a very high demand from the end of January on for grass as a high proportion of our herd will calve in the first few weeks of February so we need to have a lot of that grass grown in the month of October alone. This spring grass is worth 16 cents per kg of dry matter so it is essential to have lots of it available to freshly calved cows rather than having to feed too much supplemental concentrate feed costing around 25 cents per kg dry matter.

We are just finishing up the construction of a new holding yard for the dairy herd that also doubles up as a buffer feed area giving us extra feed spaces. We dried off some of our first calved cows also and they have gone to our outside farm that has paddocks that were cut for silage in early August which we then leave closed off to build up a good cover of grass that hopefully will allow us to keep the in calf heifers out along with 45 of these dry cows grazing until Christmas. This system is weather dependant though but when it works it can lead to a big reduction in costs and labour around the yard.

The past few months leading up to the elections in the US have often been divisive with the identity politics of the left and at times Trump’s language. This has got me thinking about how divisive farming politics has become. There was a time when there was overall unity of cause within the industry as to what we needed to achieve to get a desirable outcome at policy level for our industry. In the past few years there has been a splintering of our lobby, which historically has been among the most effective at influencing future government policy.

Our challenge going forward in farm politics is not dis-similar to that of the next occupants of the White House, It is to be unified and break the narrative of pitting farmer against farmer as has happened in the recent past. Those agitators of division have no place in farm politics.

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