Letter to the editor: Should we allow the ‘market’ to impoverish us?

Having grown up on a beef farm in rural Ireland, I have spent the past two decades working for global corporations and organisations in the field of engineering.

I have witnessed the profound change that has occurred to both the Irish and global economy. I have spent much of my career trying to learn and implement technologies to enable me to continue to survive on this island outside of Dublin.

The end of the ‘traditional’ way?

However, it is becoming increasingly difficult.

In every sector I have worked in, from agri-business through to medical devices, the financial pressures upon us are immense.

The high cost of living, the high cost of production and the inherent inefficiencies that go with life on an island have resulted in my questioning the future of my children here.

Increasingly – driven by competitive pressures – I see more and more traditional types of employment being moved off-shore to lower-cost locations.

The mantra appears to be: ‘If possible – automate; if not – outsource.’

This brings me to the subject of agriculture.

I know that the traditional beef operation that my family runs will come to an end over the coming years. The general consensus is that we need a controlled exit from full-time agriculture rather than allowing the market to impoverish us.

What does the future hold for rural Ireland?

The only competitive advantage that Ireland has is in our ability to grow grass. Therefore, experience suggests that the most efficient method of extracting the grass will come to pass.

In my view, as ridiculous as it may sound, it will be the unleashing of automated, robotic machines that will harvest the grass and transport it to automated facilities.

The traditional Irish farmer will be replaced by machines and – their bedfellows – an injection of corporate capital.

There are those who call for government help but the government is powerless against this onslaught. Our [open, globalised] economy is no longer protected from off-shore influences.

Save from withdrawing from the global marketplace, we are at the mercy of technological developments. We need to base all future long-term decisions on what is coming at us – down the line.

From Tom O’Brien, rural Ireland