Opinion

Bord Bia must officially recognise ICSA

The fact that the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) does not sit on the board of Bord Bia is a shocking indictment of the food marketing body’s approach to Ireland’s farming industry.

The omission, where ICSA is concerned, is made all the more significant, given the fact that the presidents of  both the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) already enjoy a seat around the ‘big table’.

Both the candidates in the ongoing ICSA presidential race have said they will bring this matter to Bord Bia’s attention as soon as the election is out of the way.

But, in truth, surely it’s up to the hierarchy within Bord Bia to offer the hand of friendship to ICSA now, without the need for any official communication from the farming organisation regarding the matter at hand.

I had the honour of chairing the last of the four ICSA presidential hustings events. Despite it being a ‘virtual experience’ the standard of debate entered into by the two candidates with the organisation’s executive members was extremely high.

What’s more there was also a very healthy turnout of ICSA executive members on the night in question.

ICSA presidential candidates

It was obvious that both men believe passionately in the future of Ireland’s beef and sheep industries. Significantly, there was lots of common ground evident, regarding their thoughts on how both sectors can be developed in a sustainable manner.

A case in point was their joint acceptance of the need for bespoke – and additional – support measures being directed to suckler farmers. I agree: it is imperative for Ireland to maintain the highest possible output of quality beef moving forward.

Both of the candidates also demonstrated a very firm grasp of the environmental challenges facing Irish agriculture. More importantly, they are fully aware of the fact that beef and sheep farming systems will be fundamental contributors to the solutions required – and not considered to be part of the problem in the first instance.

Irrespective of the final election result, I predict that both Sean McNamara and Dermot Kelleher will continue to play an important role, working at the very heart of Ireland’s beef and sheep sectors.

ICSA has made an important contribution to the farming debate in Ireland over the past 30 years. More importantly, there now seems every prospect that the organisation can look forward to an even more effective and impactful future.