Letter to the editor: ‘Rural Ireland will be back to the days of the landlords’

I ask if Teagasc has been, or continues to be, an agency for ‘misdirection’? After all, the purpose of farming is food, but we don’t hear about food. We hear about production…and more of it.

I recently met former Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Knock Airport. I posed the question to him: ‘What was the remit to Teagasc in your government?’. He replied: “I don’t know”.

Teagasc currently receives funding of about €125 million per annum. Meanwhile, it would appear that most farmers have little or no food at home; they shop for food every week in supermarkets.

The truth of the matter is that Irish farming is the same as farming in any other nation – in the same climate; except that others feeding into the same export markets have greater scale.

Our own propaganda

All the while, we believe our own propaganda – that we have the best food.

However, as someone who has been in London for nearly 40 years I can assure you that there is no stampede for Irish food. From what I can see, it’s sold in only three out of eight supermarkets [chains].

If Irish emigrants did not buy it, one is tempted to ask how much would actually be sold?

Now it appears that rural Ireland is winding down…or possibly closing down. Now some in Teagasc are issuing a final piece of advice to farmers – to cover their fields in forestry.

Like the other mantra – i.e. get big and grow your business – this, too, is morally bankrupt. When forestry goes in, people never farm that land again. What does that mean for the local economy?

A tragedy is unfolding in front of us; we don’t see it. Brexit is here, but we don’t yet know what it will bring with it. Mercorsur and TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] are coming.

Rural Ireland will be back to the days of the landlords – inside 40 years.

Is this all because farmers have been side-tracked to become production units and profit-centres for the likes of processors and supermarkets – the modern-day landlords?

By Michael O’Connor, London