Development plan needed, says Dukes

AN industry-wide policy council charged with producing an agri-food and rural development strategy was proposed yesterday by economist and former Government minister Alan Dukes.

He said the 15 headings identified in the report from the recent Irish Farmers Association-organised economic forum of farming and food industry leaders should be used as the basic terms of reference.

Mr Dukes, who was addressing 200 delegates at the National Rural Network annual conference in Croke Park, said a deadline of September 1, 2010, should be set for the publication of the strategy.

“At this time of economic emergency, we need hard-headed and co-ordinated policies in each of our major economic sectors to support and reinforce an overall recovery programme.”

Mr Dukes said there is an immense pool of knowledge and talent in the agri-food and rural development sector. This must be harnessed and focused for the overall benefit of the community.

The strategy would be an instrument to do just that, he told the conference, run by the National Rural Network at the Tipperary Institute.

Teagasc announced at the conference that it is to establish a rural innovation service aimed at assisting farmers to diversify within and outside of agriculture.

Professor Gerry Boyle, director, said the service will have an initial staff of 12 rural innovation advisers who will be based at the Teagasc regional education centres.

He said the new service will have a strong focus on the development of entrepreneurial and business skills.

It will focus particularly on what he described as the new generation of land owners who have a strong business focus.

Mr Boyle also told the conference renewable energy will help Irish agriculture to cope with climate change as well as reducing costs of production.

He said meat production in Ireland has a much lower carbon footprint than that from beef produced in Brazil and Argentina.

This is a factor that should be taken on board when developing policies to mitigate emissions from agriculture, he said.

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