As is tradition, we visited a number of excellent farms and industry facilities on Saturday morning which were organised by the Limerick Macra Rally Committee. We were delighted to welcome Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle who spoke fondly about his own time in Macra na Feirme.
The conference heard from Dermot O’Connor from Limerick who was the 2012 FBD Young Farmer of the Year and Munster AI Vet Doreen Corridan. Macra na Feirme Public Relations Officer Joe Coffey facilitated a discussion with John Concannon of JFC and Donnacha Ryan, Irish rugby international, who shared the key components of their success.
As Macra na Feirme National President I addressed the conference and focused on how Macra na Feirme and our programmes are always designed around maximising the potential of young farmers.
In spite of the many challenges we face, we have to remain positive. Huge opportunities exist and the future is bright for young, trained, energetic, technical proficient young farmers who focus on the key drivers of profitability within their business.
Macra na Feirme works with young farmers and members to identify the issues external to the farm gate, we discuss solutions and find ways to address them through lobbying policymakers. Some of the issues include:
Mobility and Succession
The land mobility service means that land is now easier to access for young farmers, with opportunities available through collaborative arrangements.
Long-term leases, partnerships and share farming agreements. Lobbying by Macra na Feirme has resulted in changes in the tax relief around long-term leases and a focus by the department on incentivising partnerships has helped our service.
We welcome the extension of the farm restructuring relief in the recent budget but were disappointed with the lack of movement on our proposal for tax relief on inter-family leases.
Last year’s influx of young farmers into the industry as a result of the Cap young farmer mandatory measures has placed huge pressure on our agri-education system and has resulted in farmers having difficulty accessing distance learning or online part-time courses.
I called for resources to be provided immediately to ensure access to Agri education for all young farmers. Our new Macra na Feirme Young Farmer Skillnet Master of Agri Skills programme focuses on encouraging continuous professional development and develop of the practical skills of farming under four heading business, technical, personal and farm safety.
The announcement in the budget of the low-interest loans unsecured loans facility is a welcome step in the right direction in providing cheaper credit to young farmers. We are interested to see how European Investment Bank money at lower interest rates, can be funnelled into young farmer hands in Ireland following the ex-ante assessment which is now under way.
We called for a fully functioning National Reserve to be put in place for 2017 until 2020. This is critically important for young farmers. The Programme for Government contains a proposal to write to Brussels on the older young farmer issue. We would like to see the milk-production partnership farmers also included in this submission and call for this to be lodged immediately in Brussels
The most technically efficient farmers are those who have developed their farm-grazing infrastructure. At a political level there is a need to implement policy ideas which will strategically develop and grow the industry.
An example of this was the recent Macra proposal to invest EU Aid money in a grassland improvement scheme including a reseeding and liming programme. This would be revolutionary.
Imagine the economic benefits that would bring to farmers through better soil fertility and grass utilisation, putting money in the farmer’s pocket and in turn into the economy.
Macra na Feirme is calling for grazing infrastructure to be included in Tams including Farm Roadways, water infrastructure and underpasses.
Young farmers are happy to deliver on actions on climate change, actions on food security and actions to ensure our economic viability. As young farmers, reaching our farming potential is possible if the issues above are addressed.