The upcoming abolition of milk quota must see benefits that are shared by many, and not just divided among the biggest, the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins has said.

Speaking at the IFA Teagasc International Family Farming Conference he said that the abolition of quotas will open new, stimulating opportunities for the dairy industry. “In seizing on these new opportunities, it is essential, however, that the farming community ensures that the deriving benefits are shared by the many, and not just divided among the biggest.”

He also said that with global demand for food forecast to increase by 70% by 2050, we have every reason to be confident in the potential for growth of Irish farming.

“Maintaining vibrant agriculture and preserving the family farm model is of critical importance to the future of this country.

“It is a vital necessity if we want to ensure that no portion of our national territory is left neglected – economically, socially or environmentally. It is a vital necessity if we want an Ireland of thriving local communities.

“And it is a vital necessity if we want to continue to eat good food, and sustain a living and rich relationship with our natural environment.”

He said it is equally important to build up Irish agriculture’s capacity to expand into new markets globally, as it is to strengthen local production and distribution systems and to encourage smaller farmers to directly transform and add value to their products. “Innovation and local product development are crucial to the vitality of our rural communities. It is, then, greatly encouraging to see, in today’s Ireland, a proliferation of innovative ideas and projects which manifest the dynamism and potential of family farming in our country.”

The President Michael D. Higgins also said that many other challenges facing family farmers here and abroad differ in intensity more than in kind: access to land, to credit, to markets; the need to innovate and add value to agricultural products – these are challenges that are shared by family farmers across the globe.

“As this particular audience knows very well, here in Ireland, land mobility, and in particular, the need to enable young farmers to access the land they require to make a living in agriculture is perhaps the most pressing challenge for the future of family farming.”