Opinion: Where have all the Macra leaders gone?

Macra na Feirme has historically been the training ground for many leaders in the agricultural sector.

Debating, officer training, competitive elections and farm meetings all shaped members into people who could fight their corner at any round table.

There is no doubt that as time has moved on, the face of the organisation – which has approximately 6,000 members – has changed.

Despite increased investment in agriculture through initiatives like the Macra Skillnet programme and increased lobbying and advocacy, participation in these activities is relatively low compared to the number of young farmers in the organisation.

This is not just true of Macra, the number of young farmers actively involved in farm organisations across the industry is relatively low, compared to the number of registered young farmers.

One candidate for election

Leadership is a similar story. The Macra presidential election is upon us and it is disappointing to see just one candidate declared for the top job in the organisation.

As the job now looks like it will be uncontested, it is ironic that there has never been so much leadership training available to Macra members. Entries for the Macra National Leadership Awards are higher than ever. Yet, there is just one candidate running for the position of national president.

It should be noted that at least four candidates will fight it out for the position of Leinster vice-president.

The number of leaders that Macra is pushing out in local communities is exceptional, but this is not progressing through to national level.

In one way this is a good thing. The organisation does an excellent job providing an outlet for the young people of Ireland – rural and urban dwellers alike – to come together, talk and participate in events. It’s a vital resource.

Last time the election was uncontested

In years gone by, it would be unheard of to have just one candidate in the running. The last election to be uncontested was when Catherine Buckley was elected in 2007 – the first female president of the organisation was from Co. Cork, which held a stronghold of votes.

The capable candidate who had that female edge and the rebel county vote on her side was never going to be beaten.

The current national presidential candidate, Thomas Duffy, has proven to be an active member at club, county and national level, but AgriLand would like to see a bit of competition. If only to build publicity for the organisation.

My own Macra debating team were once called “snowflakes from the millennial generation” in competition. It meant we took offence easily. Sure of course we did, we were debating (Macra debates can get fairly heated).

While Macra members are no snowflakes, it does seem that the millennial generation is not as inclined to lead and fight like the generations gone by and it’s an awful shame.