Farming & Fisheries

What’s on your farming wishlist for this year?

January 10th, 2023 7:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

Young farmer of the Year Stewart Jennings wants incentives to lease land to new entrants. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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As 2023 delivers radical policy changes to the agricultural sector, local stakeholders reveal what they would like to see on the agenda for 2023, including getting more young farmers, male and female, involved 

Carbery ceo Jason Hawkins.


Jason Hawkins


Carbery Group

We’re looking forward to a positive year for the agri sector in 2023. 

I don’t think we’ll see the record milk prices of 2022 continuing, but on the other side of that, input costs will hopefully stabilise or reduce, which should help. 

It’s been a year of some negative discourse around the climate impact of farming. I feel a lot of it is unjustified, but now that targets have been set, we look forward to continuing the ongoing work with our suppliers to assist them to farm sustainably. 

We want to work to change the narrative around farming, and help the wider public to understand how sustainable and progressive the sector is.  The launch of phase two of Futureproof, our sustainability bonus for all shareholders, should help with this. Otherwise, we have some exciting developments on the way with Farm Zero C in Shinagh. And, of course, our major focus as always will be on continuing to deliver quality products for our customers, while managing costs, environmental impacts and other factors.

Donal O’Donovan, the West Cork IFA chair


Donal O’Donovan

West Cork chair 


THE challenges presented by Covid and the Russia/Ukraine war has had an impact on the way we live our lives. 

With 8bn people living on the planet, the production of quality food is paramount and Irish farmers are well positioned to fill this space. 

Be it breakfast, dinner, tea or the deli lunch, each of us will eat quality, nutritious food that was reared or grown by farmers living in our community, and I encourage everyone to shop and eat local produce this year and cut back on the air miles created by imported food.

Like all industries, farming is constantly evolving, but it has its limitations – namely the age profile of farmers. The average age is on the wrong side of 60, with no identifiable successors in many cases. With technology and science, farming is becoming a very attractive occupation to be involved in, but young enthusiastic blood is needed to carry the torch and that’s something that needs to be addressed in 2023.

As farmers we work with the seasons, we plough the land, we protect the hedgerows, we see ourselves as the first line of defence in protecting the countryside. 

In regard to our waterways we are continually adapting our systems having spent €2bn in pollution control inside the farm gate over the past decade. 

We are playing our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and we are actively adapting measures to reduce our carbon footprint. Cap reform under the Cap strategic plan 2023-2027 will see a shift from production to the environment going forward. But I want to see every farmer given an opportunity to continue farming regardless of location, scale, size or enterprise to provide food for all consumers in a sustainable manner.

Also on the wishlist for 2023 is a sharp reduction in input costs, improved prices across all sectors – especially beef and sheep – and to develop off-farm opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

Vanessa Kiely O’Connor, with her daughter Sadhbh, wants to see the gender inequality in farming addressed.


Vanessa Kiely O’Connor

Award-winning Upton farmer 

I’M glad to see the back of 2022 and all the talk about what would or wouldn’t be imposed on farmers in the new environmental regulations. 

Now we finally have this road map of regulations we can sit down and look at our own farms to see how all the new regulations will affect us or what decisions we must make to adapt. Support and advice will be critical in 2023. 

Not every farm has a farm advisor, so I’d like to see the Department of Agriculture setting up an official phone line that any farmer can ring to get free advice during this transition period.

On a more positive note, I do think in West Cork that we are already very environmentally aware and whatever farm practice changes we may have ahead, that they are achievable. 

In 2023 I’d love to see farming being promoted more as a profession in schools. 

We need to have young people to breathe new life into our agricultural industry and ensure its future. 

It would be great to see young farmers attending local farm organisation meetings so their concerns can be heard and policies shaped for their future in farming.

I’ve been the ICMSA’s representative in a stakeholder group for women in agriculture. The group successfully got support policies for women included in the new Cap to address the gender imbalance, which was an EU requirement for all countries. 

And 2023 will see the group continue to make sure the State lives up to its commitments in this new Cap term and that it makes a difference on the ground for women of all ages currently farming, or considering farming as career.

I’m looking forward to the Department of Agriculture’s first ever national conference for all women in farming on February 1st  – so save the date! 

Stewart Jennings


Southern Star Young Farmer of the Year

FROM my own point of view I’d like to see something put in place to help young people get a start in farming – perhaps an incentive for those getting out of the sector to lease or sell land to young or new entrants.

As it stands, it’s the highest bidder who wins out, and as someone who is 100% leased, I feel strongly about that. 

I feel that the hardest thing starting out is to get land, and once you’re established, it’s easier to expand. So if there were tax incentives for people to favour new entrants, or those embarking on their careers, I think it would be a great idea. 

I’d also like to see the age demographic in farming change. I’m 30, and I was one of the youngest by far at a recent farm meeting I attended, and I think that needs to be addressed. 

Finally, I’d like to see consumers buy as much Irish produce as possible in their weekly shop. I know the products may not always be the cheapest, but when it comes to food, cheaper isn’t always better. The industry standards are so high here, and there has to be an appreciation of that. Our produce is so superior, and I think that’s obvious when you go on holidays and realise what we have here. 

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