Two key issues will dominate farmyards and farmer doorsteps as the General Election hustings get underway, according to the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).
In a statement Pat McCormack said it was “already obvious” that the continued “official inaction” on the relentless pressure on farm income was going to be “a decisive factor” in gaining or losing farmer support.
He also identified the framing of environmental issues in a way that “casts farmers as ‘the baddies’, who in his view, would be “made carry the whole cost of a fundamental and societal change”.
He said this particular issue has infuriated farmers and is threatening to “open up a chasm” between urban and rural Ireland.
“Before a word has been uttered, we already know that two issues will dominate this election as far as farmers are concerned.
Firstly, farm income. Last year saw unprecedented and costly disruption in the sector – our biggest indigenous economic sector – as farmers broke under the pressure of producing particularly beef, for prices that were less than the cost of production.
“We have farmers in all sectors receiving the same prices as their parents received 30 years ago. Everyone sympathises, but we don’t want sympathy anymore.
“We want fair prices from a fair market, and politicians need to deliver on this once and for all by tackling the most powerful links on the food supply chain.
“I think that politicians who go to farmers’ yards and doors are going to be taken aback by the fury felt on this issue,” said McCormack.
He also pointed to the “growing attack” on farmer livelihoods and the economic viability of rural Ireland “by the most aggressive and arrogant elements” of the environmental movement.
“Farmers recognise the reality of climate change, but we reject absolutely the idea that farmers alone will have to change their way of life and farmers alone will have to bear the astronomical costs of changing the way we produce food.
Balance badly needs to be brought to the environment debate and we need to hear publicly an acceptance that all sectors must play their role.
“Any candidate that comes out with glib messages unjustifiably targeting farmers will be challenged at every opportunity and interrogated on what they actually know about farming and rural life – as opposed to what they pretend to know or care about,” concluded McCormack.