Seán Finan, Macra: ‘Young farmers’ positivity stood out for me’

Seán Finan from Co Roscommon will lead Macra na Feirme for the next two years.

He took up the presidency last Saturday at the AGM, hosted by Galway Macra, and sponsored by Arrabawn.

He is a 31-year-old farmer, and a project manager in the construction industry with John Sisk & Son Ltd.

From Ballinlough, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, he has a Green Certificate in Agriculture, and a Degree in Civil Engineering from NUIG.

He farms a drystock cattle enterprise with his father and brothers.

Meeting members around the country during the Macra presidency election campaign, what stood out for you in their views and opinions?

I enjoyed every minute of the Macra na Feirme presidential campaign travelling around the country, meeting members and listening to their views, ideas and concerns.

I was honoured and delighted to be elected the 35th President.

Over the course of the campaign, I travelled to each of the 26 counties. It was great to see the vibrancy and strength of our organisation around the country.

When I spoke with young farmers, the positivity about their future in the industry really stood out for me.

Over the course of the campaign, I attended all kinds of Macra na Feirme events, from young farmers meetings, table quizzes to dinner dances etc.

All the events confirmed for me the huge and diverse range of activities that Macra members are engaged in and how involvement and participation in Macra na Feirme offers so much to members and in their personal development.

Are things looking up for young farmers, did they do better in the CAP reform for 2014-2020 than ever before?

Yes, the future is positive for young farmers.

There are always challenges, and young farmers need to be very efficient in everything they do within the farm gate, to survive and grow their businesses.

The CAP reform contains important measures for young farmers.

The 25% top up for young trained farmers, and the provision for young farmers in the National Reserve, were very welcome as part of the package.

Macra na Feirme was instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of the young farmer measures in the CAP, and we can be proud of our achievements in that regard.

The top-up on the Single Farm Payment was an idea brought by Macra na Feirme to CEJA, the umbrella body for young farmer groups in Brussels, and this was adopted as policy by CEJA and found its way into the CAP proposals.This shows the huge contribution that we as an organisation make in lobbying and representing young farmers in Ireland and at an EU level.

You’re currently looking for entries to the FBD Young Farmer of the Year competition — why should young farmers enter?

I represented Roscommon in the FBD Young Farmer of the Year in 2009, and it was a fantastic competition to take part in.

I benefited from a farm visit, a county prize, and it was great experience for me, as a young farmer. I would encourage any young farmer to apply. We have introduced sector prizes this year, as we feel that farmers in all sectors are shaping the industry, and we want to recognise their hard work.

Find out more and apply on the website.

Do you think new incentives like the Young Farmers Scheme, the National Reserve, and TAMS capital investment scheme, will increase the percentage of young farmers?

The schemes you mention ensure that young farmers get their share of CAP payments.

There are still challenges like access to finance and land, which young farmers face. It is hoped that the Land Mobility Service with support from FBD Trust and the involvement of Aurivo, Dairygold and Glanbia, in combination with the young farmers measures, will help get more young farmers into the sector and help address the aging demographic of the sector.

How badly have rural young people been hit by emigration? What is the Macra response?

Young people have been hit by emigration. Emigration has been a bigger problem for Macra in some parts of the country more than others, particularly in the western part of the country.

I have witnessed all four officers of one Macra club emigrate, and other clubs have lost large numbers of members, which has put huge pressure on clubs to survive.

Emigration and the loss of young educated people have had a negative effect on rural communities also.

One in four households in rural areas has been hit by emigration. In some cases, due to personal choice, but in many, due to limited employment opportunities.

We are calling for the full implementation of the CEDRA (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas) report which will ensure the economic development of rural areas.

This would increase employment opportunities for young people who would have otherwise been forced to emigrate.


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