As 2021 comes to a close and each of us prepares to take some time to rest and reflect over the Christmas period, we at Agriland Media want to wish you and yours a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.

Without you, our audience, what we do would be irrelevant and it means a great deal to us that you continually engage with our content on a daily basis, in ever-growing numbers, as we strive to bring you the most important information relevant to you.

Little did we think this time last year that we would still be dealing in such a restricted way with the Covid-19 pandemic come Christmas 2021, but here we are. Irish people, in general, have always been resilient but the sheer determination and adaptability shown by the agri community over the past 12 months has been admirable.

Agriculture in 2021

As agricultural calendar years go, it was not the worst of times for many. The weather played a big part in 2021 being as successful as it was in many respects, not least in the tillage and grass growth areas. In fact, in several parts of the country in recent weeks, I have heard mention of continual grass growth.

Recent weeks have been dominated by discussion on the rising cost of inputs and this will no doubt feed into plans for 2022, however overall commodity prices were not bad over the past 12 months and most sectors seemed to experience an uplift.

Ironing out the details of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has also taken centre stage during 2021, with Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue at least trying to please some of the people, some of the time.

Probably the most notable topic of discussion and debate throughout 2021 centred on climate change. Apparently, polls have been carried out to determine the ‘word of 2021’ and the most popular response has been ‘vaccine’ but I’d argue that ‘climate’ was just as prominent.

Agriculture and climate

The commentary surrounding agriculture’s contribution to climate change and global warming has, at times, come across as vindictive with a vague sense of mob mentality resonating.

It is vital that the world, as a whole, takes measures to ensure we make this planet of ours last as long as possible for our children, their children and their great grandchildren.

I don’t think there is a farmer in the country who doesn’t want to leave a legacy for their family and future generations. No-one wants to see droughts, or bushfires or species becoming extinct.

Rural Ireland is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and so many of us wish to keep it that way, with hedgerows and fields of green and cows grazing in the summer sun.

But let’s be realistic, changes are coming. Like them or loathe them, scientists say we can’t go on as we are, so change must happen. I don’t believe the agri sector is adverse to change, and can and will participate in a meaningful way towards our emissions targets and climate ambitions.

Meeting challenges

The population of the world is growing daily and more and more people need to be fed, and agriculture is continually stepping up to the challenge.

Farmers are constantly diversifying and becoming more sustainable, but like any enterprise, there is a bottom line. In this instance, the bottom line is this – the agricultural sector will do more to protect the environment, but alternative measures carry a cost and therefore a greater level of support is needed.

If Europe, and indeed Ireland, are serious about climate action, then they will have to put money where their mouths are. Otherwise, it is all just lip service – ideological and aspirational.

The next 12 months will be interesting for agriculture – farmers, processors, agri-business – no sector will escape the ever-growing need to become more sustainable. And as always, in times of crisis, the agri sector always steps up.

Christmas and New Year

As many of us sit and enjoy Christmas dinner tomorrow with loved ones or friends, please spare a thought for those grieving this Christmas, those who have an empty seat at the kitchen table, those who have to self-isolate away from their families due to Covid-19, or those who struggle at this time of year with mental health or addiction.

It is a happy time of year for many, but it can be a sad and lonely time for others and reaching out with the simplest ‘hello, how are you?’ can be the difference between dark and light to someone on any given day.

All of us at Agriland Media want to wish you a happy and safe Christmas and thank you for all the support you have given to us throughout 2021. We are excited to turn the corner of the year as we look forward to new, exciting and innovative plans which lie ahead in 2022.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.

Stella Meehan