Farm organisations are continuing to react to the government’s new five-year Rural Development Policy, which was announced yesterday (Monday, March 29).

Following on from the publication of the policy, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has tentatively welcomed the plan, but noted that much of what it commits to in terms of food and agriculture are already in the pipeline and need to be implemented by government.

“Much of what is contained in the report about farming and food is already in train, or refers to commitments that have been made before, but have yet to be implemented,” said IFA president Tim Cullinan.

It does acknowledge the central role played by the agri-food sector outside of the main cities.

“For the sector to maintain its contribution, the government has to pursue policies that allow it to grow,” he argued.

According to Cullinan, the report raises “valid aspirations about what’s needed to develop the economy on a regular basis”.

However, some of the initiatives are “reheated”, he said.

For example, the single biggest barrier to making rural communities more attractive places to live and work is the lack of broadband.

“Unless this is rectified, it remains very difficult for families in rural areas to function,” the IFA president highlighted.

He noted that the same applied to services such as roads, transport and banking, which “require upgrading if they are to be fit for purpose”.

ICMSA reaction

The IFA reaction is somewhat more positive than the reaction of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), which labelled the policy “fundamentally deficient”.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack argued that “those looking for detailed planning and commitment in this document would look in vain”.

“Everything about the way that farming is dealt with in the document screams ‘managed downgrading’ of the sector,” McCormack remarked earlier today.