ICSA Ireland executive members will meet this week in Portlaoise to cast their votes in the organisation’s presidential election.

The meeting will commence with both candidates presenting their views on how they would like to bring ICSA Ireland forward.

The candidates in question are current president and suckler/sheep producer Gabriel Gilmartin, who farms in the shadow of Ben Bulben Mountain in Co Sligo, and vice-president Patrick Kent, who operates a mixed cattle and sheep enterprise near New Ross in Co Wexford.

Speaking previously to AgriLand, Gilmartin said: “I will be standing very strongly on my record over the past number of years.”

“I was an active participant in the formulation of the Harvest 2020 strategy and, as part of this, I was the first person to propose the establishment of discussion groups for beef farmer. This led directly to the establishment of the Beef Technology Adoption Programme. I was also instrumental in pushing for the setting up of the Sheep Grassland Scheme.

“Farmers need to be better educated and better trained. This is why it is so crucial that the various initiatives currently in place to make this happen are retained and built on for the benefit of the farming industry as a whole.

“It is crucially important that both of the initiatives that I have mentioned, plus the Suckler Welfare Scheme are further developed for the future. The new Rural Development Programme (RDP) will play a key role in making sure all of this happens. And, obviously, it is important that the new RDP is properly funded.”

Gilmartin went on to confirm that ICSA  Ireland membership has grown during the four years of his presidency.

“ICSA has played an important role in promoting the needs of cattle and sheep farmers throughout Ireland. Farmers have responded in kind by joining our organisation in greater numbers.”

Wexford man Kent also feels strongly that ICSA Ireland has played a key role in supporting the needs of beef and sheep farmers the length and breadth of Ireland.

“And we must build on all of this for the future,” he told AgriLand.

“A key focus for our work will be focussed on communicating a clear message to consumers regarding the exemplary quality of Irish beef and sheep products.

“Fundamentally, farmers must receive a better return for the quality of the produce they are bringing to market. In reality, our beef and sheep products are truly organic in nature. They also constitute the fundamental building block of a healthy diet.

“I am not asking Irish consumers to pay more for the food they are buying in the shops: rather it’s a case of ensuring that primary producers get a bigger share of the monies that are coming through retail outlets.

“This means bringing more transparency to bear with regard to the operation of the agri-food chain.”