Opinion

Too many Irish farmers suffer from shiny metal syndrome: It’s a ‘machinery thing’

Thankfully, I do not suffer from shiny metal syndrome. But I fear that many Irish farmers have succumbed to this condition.

In fact, the situation has become so bad that at least one European Union (EU) farm machinery supremo is of the view that Irish agriculture is now over-mechanised. And that person is right, in my opinion.

So, good luck to everyone heading for Agritechnica, the big farm machinery event in Hannover. I won’t be joining you.

I would argue that too many Irish farmers buy specific pieces of machinery, simply because the guy down the road is already one step ahead of them.

But, irrespective of what the neighbour is up to, the ‘money is burning a hole in my pocket’ syndrome has always to be contended with. And this is a malaise that covers all sectors.

I have been on a number of decent-sized dairy farms over recent days and felt the need to reach for my sunglasses, such was the effect of the glare coming back from the shiny new tractors dashing around the yards.

I also sense that the accountants working with the farmers in question had a lot to do with the ‘new acquisition’ decisions.

But there is a serious side to all of this. Obviously, there is a need for Irish farmers to avail of the new technical developments coming down the track. But can this only be achieved on the back of individual producers doing their own thing?

Across in countries like France, farmers have a tradition of entering into machinery ring agreements with their neighbours. This allows all involved to access the technology they need at a fraction of the cost. So why could arrangements like this not see the light of day here in Ireland?

Do we really detest our neighbours that much?

Given the heritage of the co-operative movement in this country, one would have thought the machinery ring  principle would really have taken off. But such has proven not to be the case.

A push was made to introduce machinery rings around 20 years ago. But the campaign quickly lost momentum. I know that many Irish farmers will say they need their own machinery in order to get field work completed at the correct time.

But, in truth, these guys are kidding themselves. The machinery rings operating across Europe are structured so as to ensure that the specific equipment required by farmer-members is made available at all critical times.

In essence, everyone involved acts to ensure that the needs of their neighbours are met in full. Sounds like a plan to me.

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