‘When it comes to sustainability the wind is behind us’

With regards to our agricultural industry, when it comes to sustainability, we are starting with a system where “the wind is behind us”, according to Teagasc’s director of research, Dr. Frank O’Mara.

Speaking at day two of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place today (Wednesday, January 30), Dr. O’Mara said he is “optimistic for the future of Irish agriculture”.

Dr. O’Mara was part of a panel discussion entitled: ‘Farming – responding to the climate challenge’.

The discussion was moderated by the IFA’s national environment chairman, Thomas Cooney.

He explained: “Sustainability is a global issue. Every country is trying to grapple with it and the system we have here in Ireland is a really good system.

There’s lots of other countries that think about how they might improve the sustainability of their agriculture and come up with the solution that they need the type of system we have here in Ireland.

“Our farmers are good at what they do and are very innovative. They recognise challenges and deal with them.”

Commenting on the beef sector and the challenges posed by Brexit, Dr. O’Mara said: “There’s so much uncertainty; it’s hard to know where to start.”

He believes that Ireland will not get a hard Brexit.

“I’m very hopeful we will get some kind of a reasonable relationship with the UK after March 29.

“If we don’t, it’s going to be a huge challenge for the industry. The system will have to react and the commissioner [EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan] has said the EU will step in.

“The problem with Brexit is that it’s not a seasonal problem; whatever changes come they are going to be long term.

“I don’t want to minimise the issue of Brexit. I think a hard Brexit is going to bring fierce hardship to the sector.”

Concluding, Dr. O’Mara expressed his optimism: “Irish agriculture is very resilient and I am confident that it will respond to whatever challenge is thrown at it.”