Farmers need a full-time Minister for Agriculture to deal with the severe challenges farmers face 24/7 and a part-time Minister is no good to Irish farmers, IFA Presidential candidate Joe Healy has said.

Healy said that rural Ireland demands and deserves such a dedicated voice and a dedicated minister.

He maintained that the importance of farming to the wider rural economy meant it was essential that the sector had its own minister.

“Farming and the food and drinks sector generate €26 billion for the rural economy as a whole, the industry is worth over €10 billion in export earnings and employs close to 220,000 people.

“Given the economic importance of the farm sector, in addition to its geographic and social reach, it is vital that farming has a dedicated voice at cabinet.

“The farm sector is struggling to deal with greater price volatility on world markets at the moment, and our beef, dairy, tillage and pig farmers are all selling below the cost of production.”

There are a plethora of other issues to deal with; including Brexit, international trade deals with North and South America, climate change, retailer power and beef industry consolidation.

According to Healy, there is plenty to keep the new Minister occupied; if he or she has the appetite to tackle the issues.

“The recent election proved to the politicians that you ignore rural Ireland at your peril. TDs are already talking of the need for an investment strategy for country areas.

“Any proposals will have to involve additional spending on roads, broadband and rural policing – but it must also include farming.

“And it is up to the IFA and a dedicated Minister for Agriculture to ensure that farming is central to any new rural investment strategy.”

Healy has said that farming is the heartbeat of rural Ireland and farmers are at the core of its community structure.

“A strong dedicated voice for farmers at the cabinet table is also a strong dedicated voice for rural communities.”