The Munster vice-president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Dermot Kelleher, has been elected national president of the organisation.
The result announcing Mr Kelleher of Carrignacurra, Inchigeela, as president was made via Zoom on Thursday, December 17th. He secured the top job by seven votes more than his rival, Westmeath farmer, Sean McNamara.
Mr Kelleher, who will formally take over at the organisation’s AGM in January, spoke to The Southern Star about the serious challenges 2021 will bring. He said Common Agriculture Policy negotiations and Brexit would present a lot of difficulties for the dry stock sector.
‘A no-deal Brexit situation,’ he said, ‘would be a disaster for agriculture in this country because of the levies on fresh produce.
‘It will make our produce uncompetitive and there will be access issues too via the UK land bridge. Fresh produce going to Europe will simply not be able to get through fast enough.’
Questions, such as the exportation of live cattle, have yet to be addressed, said Mr Kelleher. ‘We don’t know what the final outcome will be.’
Another ‘big problem’ he suggested is climate change. He maintains, ‘Agriculture is being used as a scapegoat for emissions by aviation and other heavy industry.’
Mr Kelleher said that Ireland can produce the best naturally-fed beef and lamb – but it is not properly promoted. He said, ‘The consumer is not being made aware of the fact that we are producing a quality product that is environmentally-friendly and has a good track record in terms of animal welfare.’
Mr Kelleher has been farming for four decades at Carrignacurra and has served as an active member of the ICSA for almost three decades.
He started his farming career in 1978 with 11 acres of arable land, but today his son, Christy, is running the family farm, which comprises over 80 acres.
His candidacy drew widespread support after years of championing the cause of farmers. He was also instrumental in starting the Disadvantaged Farmers’ Legal Challenge in 2014.