A soon-to-be Laois councillor and tillage farmer has called for more trading to be done between farmers.

PJ Kelly – who will be officially co-opted to Laois County Council on Monday (April 26), after Fine Gael completed the process of electing a replacement to fill the seat left vacant by another farmer – said he would like to see trading between grain growers, beef and dairy farmers.

“Straw and hay are traded, but more high-protein grain could be as well. At least then, grain growers could be more confident in their business being viable in the future,” he said.

“I grow 90% malting barley, winter and spring, and the remainder – feed barley.”

PJ (49) from Ballybrittas, will officially fill the seat previously held by sheep and tillage farmer Tom Mulhall from 2009, to earlier this year. Tom stepped down from his role in January due to health issues.

“I had been helping Tom out since 2009, and was involved before that in canvassing,” said PJ, who is treasurer of Courtwood GAA Club, and plays for its second team. Married to May, they have three children; Alison, Rachel and Liam.

The importance of being a rural Laois councillor

“Where I am based, the majority are farmers, and farmers feel more confident in having a farmer represent them. The fact that our rural area had a councillor meant that people didn’t want it to go back into one of the towns,” he said.

“One big issue at local level is illegal dumping in quiet rural areas, away from farms and in forestry, and it is something I will be trying to clamp down on. Some of the rubbish that is being thrown is coming from fast food outlets. I think stronger penalties are required.

“Lately, the idea of vehicle registration numbers being printed on all drive-thru premises’ packaging has been raised by Fine Gael senator, John McGahon, as a way to track down drivers or passengers who throw rubbish out of car windows,” PJ added.

He encourages farmers to make good use of all available schemes to enhance their farm businesses.

“There is no doubt that when the new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] comes in, that payments will be tailored towards those who are availing of these schemes. Farmers should work those schemes to suit themselves, and especially their farms,” said the soon-to-be councillor.

Rural dwellers often fared better than their urban counterparts during the lockdown, with an abundance of walks within their 5km limit when that restriction was enforced, PJ contended. He said that he is seeing more people relocate out of Dublin to live in the countryside.

“More work is being done online and people are asking themselves what the need is to drive to Dublin every day of the week, and this has resulted in house prices rising in many areas.”

PJ said he would be pressing for more facilities in rural areas. He sees the GAA in which he is involved, as an important community focal point. “During lockdown, GAA clubs like our own have been checking in on people. You want to be sure they are alright, but you don’t want to be seen as interfering,” he said.

The Laois councillor-to-be concluded, by saying he would like to see more farmers getting involved in politics. “I know this will take a lot of my time, but farmers are great at making time in their business.”