'No one is too far from the land': President Higgins says farming and farmers must be protected

'No one is too far from the land': President Higgins says farming and farmers must be protected

President Michael D Higgins has waded into the beef crisis by telling crowds on the first day of the National Ploughing Championships in Co Carlow that there needed to be more transparency in the price relationship between producers and farmers.

As tens of thousands of people descended on Fenagh for the opening day of this year's event, protests continued at the gates of meat factories around the country amid a continuing impasse over the issue of base price.

Officially opening the Championships the President said he was concerned about the vulnerability of rural producers and suggested the time was right for greater clarity on how the price paid by the consumer for food is divided, stating "when you know more you can make good decisions".

"All of our wishes go out to those who want to see a future for the family farm," he said.

"And I do wish those who are trying to solve things I wish them every success.

"If it can't be solved by what is on offer, it's a beginning and beginnings are important, but more importantly, I hope at the end of the ploughing you will all know the importance of how in fact the contribution is divided between the agent of production, the farmer, the processor, and the retailer.

"That everybody should know more, and when you know more you can make good decisions. So that is another advantage of the ploughing this year."

He told the crowd and invited guests, among them the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, that it should not be a case of people "paying lip service to farming" and that instead farming and farmers needed to be protected, adding: "No one is too far from the land."

He also referred to "those who do the work, who are entitled to their fair share".

Later he also referred to "a person who may have only one purchaser".

"I have been been concerned about the vulnerability of the rural producer and the person who in fact ... really needs protection, they need transparency, protection and a fair system," he said.

"The word 'fair' was there in the campaign for fair rent, so let us know have fair produce, fair treatment for everybody involved and let's move on from that.

"The very best way to do that, maybe what is on offer may not be the perfect resolution, but let's make it the best beginning and go on and build on that."

President Higgins also referred to the challenges of climate change and the unpredictability of weather, praising those involved in the GLAS scheme, adding: "The evidence is there that Irish farming is responding to these challenges and Irish farming in cooperation with the others who are responding to climate change and sustainability can do it together."

He challenged farmers to be at the head of the race regarding sustainability, biodiversity and climate change and stressed the importance of family farming, stating that it was "keeping a way of life alive" as well as making a contribution to the public good.

He said people in rural Ireland must enjoy "equal citizenship" and that people must be prepared to pay for services in rural Ireland to ensure that can take place.

He also referred to concerns over any threats to the benefits of the Good Friday Agreement and said the Ploughing was a chance for rural and urban to come together and celebrate a shared Irishness.

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