It is time for the agriculture sector and farming “matters” to start “getting treated with a little bit of respect” the Taoiseach Simon Harris said today (Friday, April 19).

Speaking at the European People’s Party (EPP) agriculture-focused conference in Co. Carlow today the Taoiseach told the audience that agriculture and farming “is a really important part of the Irish economic story”.

While he acknowledged that there is a “climate emergency – the planet is on fire”, he said it was “also important that governments learn you can do more than one thing at a time”.

Taoiseach Simon Harris

“Of course we can make progress on climate whilst also bringing about food security in Ireland and in the European Union and what we need to see is a little less finger wagging at farmers a little less lecturing and a hell of a lot more partnership.

“I want to commit and re-commit myself and my party and my Government to that task and to that challenge,” he added.

The Taoiseach said talking about climate does not mean talking about it “as though climate means you can’t have sustainable agriculture”.

He added: “In fact if we look at the record in relation to emissions we already see agriculture is playing its part and in fact there is often a disproportionate focus on agriculture rather than other sectors of the economy that aren’t making as much progress.

“We all know farming has to transition we all know there’s changes coming we all know there’s more changes required  – farmers get that, but what they don’t need is a lecturing tone from Dublin about climate and I wanted to commit to never falling into that trap as Taoiseach as well.”

He stressed to the audience, which included the leaders of farming organisations, business leaders, academics and farmers, that agriculture and the agri-food sector was an essential part of the Irish economy.

“Farmers and farming families are the beating heart of rural Ireland and of the European Union  – you’re the custodians of the land, you’re a vital cog in the very fabric and society and and our economy.

“Indeed in good times and bad times economically while others come and go farmers are still here day in day out working for our economy and working for our people,” the Taoiseach added.

He also set out how Fine Gael in government would act on a range of key issues including succession, retirement and other long term “worries and stresses” facing the farming community.


In relation to climate challenges he said that farmers needed to have “adequate support”.

“Farmers need certainty and income streams to help with transition – we need to be allies in relation to this I acknowledge the farming community has already acted. There isn’t a farmyard in the country that has not taken action on these issues in recent years and we should acknowledge that.

“I absolutely understand that there is a sense of frustration and a sense of anger from farmers that they’ve been on what they believe to be a constant treadmill of change over the last five years and they sense that their sector gets spoken down to or that it is no longer valued to the same extent as it once was,” the Taoiseach added.

He said that this was “not good enough” and that it could not be allowed to continue and he took the opportunity to thank farmers for “the heavy lifting that you’ve already done”.

“I want to commit to working with you in a spirit of partnership, I want to sit down and want to work together, want to say this is what we do need to do together there’s no sugar coating that but how do we make it actually happened.

“Because as far as I’m concerned there’s no future for rural Ireland and no prosperous future for Ireland that does not involve farming, farmers the agri-food sector growing not contracting and by working with we’ll you we’ll will ensure that farmers can earn a decent income whilst protecting the environment,” the Taoiseach said.