CONGRATULATING Charlie McConalogue has on his appointment as Minister for Agriculture, IFA president Tim Cullinan said they looked forward to working with him ‘to ensure that farmer concerns are taken seriously.’
Also welcoming the Donegal farmer’s appointment were the ICSA, who called for him to deliver ‘economic sustainability to cattle and sheep farmers,’ while Macra na Feirme urged him to deliver for young farmers. All agreed that agriculture had suffered in recent months without ministerial leadership following the firing and resignation, respectively, of McConalogue’s two predecessors in the office, Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary.
Tim Cullinan said that, ‘given the upheaval in the Department since the government took up office in June, we expect Minister McConalogue to get to grips with his portfolio quickly. He said that ‘the CAP budget, Brexit and the new Climate Bill are urgent and critical issues for the Government.’
The IFA president said that the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is a real one: ‘Farmers are in the frontline in terms of a damaging outcome and the Minister has to carry this message at government and EU level.’‘This Minister has a huge task as farmers are frustrated with what they perceive to be fundamental unfairness in the food chain. They are being asked to do more and more for less return, as processors and retailers maximise their profits at the expense of farmers,’ Mr Cullinan said. ‘In this regard, the creation of the new Food Ombudsman will be vital.’
Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy agreed that the changing of Ministers has worried many in agriculture at a time when several critical long-term challenges are on the horizon: ‘A lot of issues key to young farmers are on the new Minister’s table, from National Reserve to Young Farmers measures under the new CAP and, of course, top of the agenda will be Brexit. As one of the youngest Ministers for Agriculture our expectations are high for Minister McConalogue,’ he said.
‘Ambitions around greater environmental sustainability at EU level must be matched with greater budget and many measures set out in the “Farm2Fork” strategy must be questioned by the new Minister if farmers are to support change,’ Mr Duffy warned.
Meanwhile, ICSA president Edmond Phelan stated that as well as Brexit and CAP reform, the Beef Taskforce needs to deliver for farmers. ‘It has been in existence for a year now and farmers are getting frustrated with the current lack of urgency.
‘Minister McConalogue needs to inject a sense of urgency into the Beef Taskforce. It has been sidelined for too long and farmers want results now. It must bring about total transparency in the food chain and ensure that neither processor nor retailer can abuse their dominant positions.’
ICSA is also insisting the TB Forum is reconvened as a matter of urgency: ‘The issuing of TB Herd History Risk Statements to farmers is a matter that requires the Minister’s urgent attention,’ he added.
They also want to see the establishment of a dedicated Sheep Taskforce with a remit to tackle all the ongoing issues in the sector.