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ON THE FARM: Optics exists surrounding the cheque from Brussels

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Optics do not reveal the whole story when it comes to ‘the cheque from Brussels’ received by farmers according to Clare Echo farming columnist Joe Melody.

Traditionally this time of year was always a period that farmers would target to sell their cattle in the marts. The theory behind this for some farmers was the single farm payment would be arriving into farmers accounts and they might be more likely to spend the cheque from Brussels, in turn this would bring about a buoyancy to the cattle trade.

Currently it is a sellers market out there but much of that is more to do with a scarcity of cattle rather than anything else, hopefully farmers can capitalise on this as there has been enough doom and gloom hanging over the beef industry in the past few years.

“The cheque from Brussels” is one of these commonly used phrases almost as ubiquitous as “do you have much road frontage”, these lines are often trotted out when a farmer meets someone perhaps from an urban background. This well meaning urban dweller means no malice but is merely finding common ground with their rural cousin. However there is a gap between the optics of the farmer receiving the cheque in the post and why they’re actually receiving it.

This payment from the EU is not actually farmer focused, it is in fact consumer focused. It’s striking that Ireland has now one of the lowest spends as a percentage of income, on food. In 1980 27.7% of Household income went on food, today that is now down to 8.7%. My sense of it is if the true cost of food production were to be passed back to the consumer, some people would have to go without and this could lead to social unrest.

There was famine in Holland during World War two, this was a man made famine created by the Nazis and we all know the devastating legacy our own great famine left on this island. These kind of events remind us that food security should be the under-pining raison d’être of the EU project.

In our own county, the farm payments have achieved a lot from helping to keep the family farm structure viable and subsidising the production of high quality food to conservation projects in the Burren and along our river banks.

All this money flows into the local economy acting as a rural stimulus package as well as making sure we all have food on the table at a reasonable price.

Back in Bunratty this week, we housed the in-calf dairy heifers. With the persistent rain and plummeting temperatures, we felt this would be too much pressure on these girls body condition as some of them will be calving from mid January so they can’t afford any backward steps in their development.

All in-calf dairy heifers and cows will receive a pre calving mineral from next week on. All cows are now dried off for their winter break, this is welcome for man and beast. However we are turning our attentions to planning our spring workload. We could be forgiven for getting lazy on the lead into Christmas but a little planning now should take a lot of pressure off for next spring when the work volume peaks.

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