2014 is a special year for Macra na Feirme as the voluntary organisation for young people in Ireland is celebrating its 70th year and what a milestone.

Macra was founded in 1944 by a group of agricultural advisors, rural science teachers and farmers. Its first secretary was Athy man Stephen Cullinan, a rural science teacher.

Its principles on the personal development of members that puts emphasis on social interaction and participation are still as important today as they were in 1944.

Since then more than 250,000 young people have passed through the ranks of Macra. Much has changed since those early days; young people have different priorities now and need new challenges, which Macra today tries to provide.

Its president Kieran O’Dowd explains.

“Macra is a democratic non-party political independent organisation and every member is entitled to air their opinions at club, regional and national level. More than 250,000 people have gone through the ranks of the organisation in 70 years. We have been able to survive and sustain.

“The organisation has evolved and embraced all aspects of rural Ireland, which is evident today. It is the first time the organisation has a non-farming president for example. We also have a large number of female members and members who are not from a farming background directly but live and work in rural Ireland. We have moved with the times.”

The credit list of Macra is impressive to say the least: It established The Farmers Journal, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Associateion, Macra na Tuaithe (now Foroige), Farm Apprenticeship Scheme, Irish Farm Accounts Co-op (IFAC), National Co-operative Farm Relief Services Ltd. It even set up the National Farmers’ Association (now the Irish Farmers Association).

Plans are now currently under way to celebrate its 70th year.

Looking to the future, O’Dowd said the rollout of the new Common Agricultural Policy Reform will be key for its members.

“We are hoping for some recognition in pillar II funding. There is a new young farmer investment package in pillar I, but there needs to be a capital/top-up investment scheme of some sort in pillar II funding. We are calling on that and the signs from the minister are positive so we live in hope.”

Also on the agenda is a fairer price for young farmers. “With the power of the retailers producers are getting the least amount of profit and that needs to be looked at.”

In terms of a rural youth point of view, the Macra president said rural employment initiatives are key and is calling on the Government to act. “There has been a lot of emigration in rural areas the past number of years and young people need to be given a viable employment choice. There are no Intel’s or Google’s in rural Ireland. ”

Clearly after all these years, Macra is still in fighting form.

Macra President Kieran O’Dowd