Young farmer discussion groups (YFDGs) need to be improved on the ground, according to Macra na Feirme’s Agricultural Affairs Committee.

Speaking at the Macra na Feirme annual general meeting, held in Athy, Co. Kildare last month, committee chairman John Keane described the discussion groups as the “backbone of what the agricultural affairs committee is”, underlining their importance for communicating vital issues among farmers on the ground.

Commenting on the committee’s work last year, Keane noted that Macra’s agricultural affairs committee members had travelled to 26 counties over the course of the year getting feedback from young farmers.

Talking to groups of farmers comprising both Macra members and those who aren’t involved with Macra, Keane noted that discussions centred around what farmers “see as being the big issues that are affecting them and how to get YFDGs going on the ground”.

Following these meetings, and discussions with 140 farmers, a number of recommendations were established, the chairman noted.

“We need to engage more with policy and what comes from the ground; we need to try and speed up the process of getting the information from the farmers and getting it released,” he said.

Farming and media

On another note, Keane said: “We also had a consultation on identifying the challenges on farmers around media and what media means to farmers and how farmers are engaging with the media, how it affects their perception of farmers as well.

“That was done as part of a PhD from a girl studying in UCD. It was between the comparisons of what goes on in Uruguay and what happens in Ireland.”

Consultation also took place between the Macra committee and Teagasc on the development of a new course on dairy management, and on what young farmers would see as contributing to a good course for the future of such managers.

The chairman noted that the rural youth organisation has filmed a series of videos on ‘What Macra means to me’, with more to follow.

Engagement with co-ops

In addition, a document was produced entitled “What young farmers want from our cooperatives”, following on from a meeting held with the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) at the start of the year, with a view to developing stronger relationships between the organisations.

The report was based on “what young farmers – young people – feel they need to get involved with co-operatives on a grass roots level and also on a higher level”, according to Keane.

The recent ‘Make the Moove’ campaign in Co. Tipperary was underlined, with the agricultural affairs committee feeling “there’s huge potential to grow in the future”, adding that there will be more to come in the coming months.

Ongoing efforts with the Macra Land Mobility programme and a study trip to the European Parliament in Brussels were also highlighted by the chairman in his report.