A 10-point action plan for the survival of farming in hill areas was launched yesterday by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).
President Joe Healy, who launched the initiative at an IFA hill sheep farmers’ forum in Newport Co Mayo, said the plan covers all of the key policy issues and must be a priority for the Government.
He said the policy actions are geared at positively promoting the sustainable development of hill areas and, if implemented, could have a very positive impact on hill farming and on wider rural communities.
“Hill areas are generally economically vulnerable and policy responses from Government are needed to arrest the decline that has become more apparent in recent times,” he said.
IFA Sheep Committee chairman John Lynskey said the IFA had secured €25m in additional funding for a new targeted sheep support scheme under the Rural Development Programme.
He said the scheme must be simple and effective with minimal expense, costs or bureaucracy on farmers.
IFA Hill chairman Pat Dunne said the average farm income in hill areas is €16,338 with direct payments representing 100% or more of income.
Meanwhile, a guiding principle of the Food Wise 2025 strategy is that environmental protection and economic competitiveness are equal and complementary.
This was stated by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed at a National Dairy Council seminar in Goleen, West Cork.
A Teagasc farm walk hosted by Kieran and Catherine O’Sullivan, from Dunmanus, the 2015 national winners of the NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, followed the seminar.
Mr Creed said efforts to enhance sustainability and in the dairy sector are particularly important in the context of challenging market conditions.
“We are so fortunate in Ireland to have access to nutritious milk and dairy produce supported by a sustainable, grass-based system,” he said.
Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin, holder of 10 All-Ireland senior hurling medals, said excellence is not achieved overnight. Noting that the dairy farm families in the national awards share tremendous pride in the results, he said consumers are the real winners here.
NDC chairman Teddy Cashman said buyers of dairy are looking beyond the consistent quality of the product to provenance and sustainability –and these are all areas where Irish dairy farming really shines.
Dairy expert Jack Kennedy said the challenging time for many dairy farmers is all the more reason to highlight and reward best practices which drive quality standards on farm.
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