UCC graduate William Keane, who was chosen at the final of the national competition in Castlebar, Co Mayo, said he believed there is a positive future for farming in Ireland, especially dairying.
But there will be significant changes in structures at farm gate and at the processing and marketing levels of the industry.
“It may lead to increased volatility and present extra challenges, but I believe the awards will be there for those who look for them,” he said.
A science graduate in food technology from UCC, he was presented with a specially commissioned sculpture by Irish-based artist Aileen Anne Brannigan, a travel bursary worth €2,500 and €1,000.
Substantial prizes were also awarded to second-placed Bill O’Keefe, a pedigree dairy farmer from Clara, Co Kilkenny, and to third-placed Brian Reidy, a 29-year-old dairy farmer from Tubbercurry, Co Sligo. John Cahalan, a 35-year-old dairy farmer fromNenagh, Co Tipperary, was presented with a special prize for communityinvolvement by Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary, Pat Smith.
Niall McGrath, a 32-year-old tillage farmer from Garristown, Co Dublin,received an award for innovation in farming from Macra na Feirme chief executive, Edmond Connolly.
Twenty-six contestants from all over Ireland took part in the competition organised by Macra in partnership with the IFA.
The competition aims to recognise excellence in the agricultural industry and promote farming as a career with a bright future.
Macra president, Michael Gowing, praised the enthusiasm of the farmers at the national final.
“Farming is a challenging profession but it is important to highlight the fact that there are many highly educated and skilled young people choosing agriculture as a career and making a success of it,” he said.
IFA president, Padraig Walshe, said the calibre of candidates in the competition reflects the outstanding emerging talent in farming.
At a time when pressures on the agricultural community have never been greater, the finalists have proven they are equipped to tackle the challenges ahead, he said.