Macra na Feirme has welcomed the new five-year rural policy that was published by the government this week, particularly the focus on remote working.

However, the organisation argued that 4% of direct payments under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would need to be directed towards generational renewal.

Macra highlighted that young people had to “abruptly adjust” to working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic “without the essential amenities that are often taken for granted”.

As plans are put in place to return to offices, the excuse of poor broadband speed and other distractions is less likely to be tolerated and so the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan is a must.

Macra said it welcomed the commitment in the plan for the creation of a ‘Rural Youth Assembly’ to “best gather and represent the views of young people who are currently living in, or who wish to live in, rural Ireland”.

Shane Quigley, Macra’s rural youth chairman, said: “A Rural Youth Assembly is essential. The focus must be on those young adults.

“We have to ensure that young people are able to find employment and raise their families in the rural communities where they live. This plan needs to ensure that anyone can live, work and play in rural Ireland”, Quigley added.

Macra also noted that one of its own initiatives – the ‘Make the Moove’ mental health campaign – was referenced in the new policy.

The organisation’s national president, Thomas Duffy, commented: “Macra na Feirme welcome the inclusion of Make the Moove, and looks forward to working with government departments, the HSE [Health Service Executive] and others in developing this initiative nationally.

Succession and generational renewal

Macra also welcomed the recognition in the plan that farm succession and gender disparity are linked.

The organisation also argued that the ambitions related to lower emissions will be difficult to achieve without addressing land mobility.

“In the next CAP, young farmers need to see at least 4% of all direct payments directed towards generational renewal. It cannot be all down to EU funding however. National contributions to schemes must be maximised to make this green transition,” said Shane Fitzgerald, Macra’s agricultural affairs chairperson.

Concluding the organisation’s comments on the new policy, Thomas Duffy said: “The pandemic has hit all voluntary organisations hard, but with state commitment, we can lead in rebuilding a fairer, more equitable rural Ireland.”