Following the publication of the government’s new five-year rural development policy – ‘Our Rural Future‘ – one farm organisation has given it a mixed reaction.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that the policy suffers from “a chronic ailment” of government policy, in that it was “notably heavy on vague aspirations and correspondingly light on any meaningful detail”.

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, argued that “those looking for detailed planning and commitment in this document would look in vain”.

The section of the policy document dealing with farming, forestry and food production was “the most obvious example” of this, according to McCormack.

Everything about the way that farming is dealt with in the document screams ‘managed downgrading’ of the sector.

“I stand to be corrected, but I was unable to see the words ‘commercial farming’ mentioned even once,” the farm leader noted.

He continued: “This does not bode well if the [Department of Rural and Community Development] charged with taking rural Ireland forward over the next five years fails to recognise and name the one sector that has proved repeatedly that it has the capacity to do just that.

“No amount of farmers’ markets will replace the economic input provided by our commercial farming and processing sector. Just once, I’d love to see an Irish Government document that categorically committed to supporting our commercial farming sector in the transition to a low-emissions basis,” McCormack remarked.

What we seem to get instead is a ‘penny packet’ policy that puts forward a multitude of relatively small initiatives that will not allay farmers’ fears that we are an ‘add-on’ component to the rural Ireland envisaged by some elements in government and, most particularly, some elements of media.

“Agriculture is the primary economic driver and the critical component which sustains rural communities. The presentation of farming as ‘one of a number’ of important elements is slippery and just does not accord with the facts,” the ICMSA president contended.

He concluded: “Farming and food production is not just an element of Ireland’s rural economy. It is Ireland’s rural economy and we think that a rural development policy document that doesn’t recognise that is fundamentally deficient.”