Macra president elect focuses on building bridges in the great divide

Thomas Duffy is the newly elected national president of Macra na Feirme and the first Cavan man to take up the role.

The national president elect runs a dairy farm close to Virginia in Co. Cavan in partnership with his father Ned and mother Kathleen and has been a member of Macra for the last 10 years.

As he alluded to himself the Macra journey for him “has been an incredibly huge part of my life”.

He held roles within the organisation at both club and county level and was also elected national council representative for Cavan. Duffy also served on the agricultural affairs committee for two years.

‘Taking over the Mantle’

Duffy also spoke on the latest episode of FarmLand about his involvement in Macra and what it means to him to hold the title of national president.

“For the next two years Macra is going to be my full-time commitment; I will be working for young farmers and rural youth as well,” he confirmed.

The national president elect says there will be two main areas of focus for him – the immediate issues that need to be addressed quickly and the long-term ones that “can often be overlooked”.

Many of our members are going to be farming for the next 30 to 50 years.

Duffy continued: “On that probably the most immediate issue is Brexit and ultimately the UK is going to do whatever it feels is best for its country.

“So what we need to do is put the proper supports in place that will counteract any issues with trade or loss of sales between ourselves and the UK.”

He went on to say that Macra would be fighting the cause in Brussels.

“Macra will be fighting very, very hard in Brussels to ensure that farmers are not made to suffer; we also need time to find new markets and overcome the impact – personally I don’t want to see a no-deal Brexit – but ultimately that is beyond the control of young farmers.”

The great divide

One matter that Duffy is particularly concerned about at the moment is what he describes as “the divide between beef and dairy farmers”.

“Attempts have been made to divide beef and dairy farmers and to turn them on each other, in reality that doesn’t benefit either sector,” he added.

“I know that a lot of beef farmers feel dismissed, or undermined, or irrelevant; at the same time we see what’s happening with calf exports at the moment – that is a very vulnerable trade – so the answer is a more sustainable beef and dairy sector.”

Duffy then pointed to the suckler side of things and insisted the sector must not be made “a scapegoat of”.

“Our suckler sector cannot be made a scapegoat for issues such as climate change; the suckler sector produces the highest quality Irish beef and farmers need to be properly rewarded for that work,” he concluded.