‘It is vital that…no farms are sacrificed for what some may perceive as the greater good’

Protecting family farms should be a focus of the new agriculture ministerial team, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) president Colm O’Donnell.

A recent drive to increase the size and production levels of farms “has not delivered in terms of improved incomes for farmers and the wider rural economy”, and O’Donnell feels this issue should be attended to by the newly-appointed Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen and Minister of State Pippa Hackett.

O’Donnell said that the importance of protecting all family farm models is significant, as they have been the “mainstay of agriculture and our rural communities for the last 100 years”.

It is vital that they ensure no farmer or sector of farming is sacrificed for what some may perceive as the greater good.

Along with this, O’Donnell believes there has been a continued drive for more forestry in many western counties to “off-set the greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors [of the economy]”.

“Through current CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] proposals and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, we could be looking at further restrictions on extensive farming practices and farmers currently farming on blanket bogs and reclaimed peatlands,” O’Donnell said.

“Both ministers should be aware of the predominance of peat soils in Offaly and will see the immediate danger that some of the outlined proposals could have in Offaly and many other counties – from Donegal to Kerry.”

Concluding, O’Donnell said that the next five years could be the “most momentous time in farming since we joined the Common Market as we set the parameters for farming and our rural communities to 2050”.

“It is critical that we get it right for our farmers, their communities and the country as a whole.”