Farm organisations react to appointment of new minister

Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen was appointed as the new Minister for Agriculture in the cabinet that was announced over the weekend by the new Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Minister Cowen will head up the Department of Agriculture and Marine (note that the word ‘food’ is no longer included in the department’s name) in the new Government. The Fianna Fáil minister takes over from former minister Michael Creed.

How are farm organisations responding to Cowen’s appointment as minister?

ICMSA

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) welcomed the appointment of Minister Cowen, saying farm families would be “reassured”.

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, said that the minister is “someone widely recognised as having a knowledge of, and sympathy with, the farm families of Ireland”.

It is already obvious that the next five years would involve the most fundamental changes and challenges in Irish farming since the state’s accession to the then EEC [European Economic Community] in 1973.

“It is supremely important that our farming and food sectors are led by an individual who understands the nature of the change coming, and will help the farming and food sectors make the transition in a way that acknowledges the central economic, social and environmental role the sector already plays in rural areas, and who will fight to maintain that,” McCormack highlighted.

IFA

Tim Cullinan, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), congratulated Minister Cowen on his appointment.

“We look forward to working with the new minister to ensure that we harness the full potential of our farming sector,” Cullinan said.

One of Minister Cowen’s main concerns, Cullinan argued, will be the “pressing need” to get the €50 million funding for beef finishers (announced by Creed in his final days as minister) paid out soon.

The new minister has to be clear that farming is a commercial activity and that the economic sustainability of farmers is at the centre of the sustainability debate.

“This minister has a huge task as farmers are frustrated with what they perceive to be fundamental unfairness in the food chain. They are being asked to do more and more for less return as processors and retailers maximise their profits at the expense of farmers,” the IFA president remarked.

Cullinan also expressed his congratulations to Green Party senator Pippa Hackett, who has been appointed as a ‘super junior’ minister of state with responsibility for land use management and biodiversity.

“We will work constructively to achieve the dual outcomes of food production and climate action with Minister Hackett,” Cullinan said.

Finally, Cullinan expressed thanks to former minister Michael Creed for his contribution as minister, saying: “We wish him and his family well for the future.”

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