The Irish Farmers’ Association, which marked the 60th anniversary of its foundation yesterday, has been one of the most successful lobby groups in the history of this State.
It has been instrumental in improving living standards for farm families by promoting a sharper culture of business, higher standards, and professionalism.
It is no small achievement either that it has convinced government after government that the industry deserves subventions unimagined in other sectors.
Indeed it is fair to say hardly a farm in Ireland — or Europe — would be solvent if subsidies were ended.
Those subventions, 40% of the EU budget, remain essential despite the imminent end of milk quotas, the reopening of the US market for Irish beef, and the ambitions expressed through Food Harvest 2020.
The power of the lobby has been seen, too, in the derogations secured from European directives on nitrates, a move designed to protect water quality.
Similar efforts are under way around increased carbon emissions made inevitable by a bigger national herd.
It is not hard to imagine, though, that the IFA’s greatest challenges lie ahead.
The growing strength of food processors and retailers threatens farmers’ incomes as does increasing scrutiny of EU subsidies.
Ever-tighter environmental controls can be expected too.
The IFA can be proud of how it has represented its members and the organisation must be recognised as a positive force within the argi sector.
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