New minister ‘must back farmers at the cabinet table’

Newly appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue “must back farmers at the cabinet table”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

IFA president Tim Cullinan has congratulated Charlie McConalogue on his appointment as Minister for Agriculture following the Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s nomination of him to succeed Dara Calleary earlier today (Wednesday, September 2).

“We look forward to working with the new minister to ensure that farmer concerns are taken seriously,” he said.

Given the upheaval in the department since the government took up office in June, we expect Minister McConalogue to get to grips with his portfolio quickly.

Continuing, Cullinan highlighted: “Michel Barnier’s assessment today to the IIEA was very bleak and the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is a real one.

“Farmers are in the front line in terms of a damaging outcome and the minister has to carry this message at government and EU level,” he said.

“The CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] budget, Brexit and the new Climate Bill are urgent and critical issues for the government.

“The minister has to be clear that farming is a commercial activity and that the economic sustainability of farmers is at the centre of the sustainability debate,” he said.

This minister has a huge task as farmers are frustrated with what they perceive to be fundamental unfairness in the food chain.

“They are being asked to do more and more for less return, as processors and retailers maximise their profits at the expense of farmers,” the president said.

“In this regard, the creation of the new Food Ombudsman will be vital.

“This new body must have the scope to regulate the full food chain and have real powers to ensure a fair share of the retail price gets back to farmers,” Cullinan concluded.