THE president of ICMSA has identified the two issues he believes will dominate the general election from the viewpoint of farmers and the wider agri-sector.
Pat McCormack stated that it was already obvious that the continued official inaction on what he called the ‘relentless pressure’ on farmers’ margins was going to be a decisive factor in gaining or losing farmer support. But, he also identified the framing of environmental issues in a way that cast farmers as ‘the baddies’ who would be made carry the whole cost of a fundamental and societal change as a relatively new factor that was, he said, infuriating farmers and threatening to open up a chasm between urban and rural Ireland.
‘Before a word has been uttered, we already know that two issues will dominate this election as far as farmers are concerned. Firstly, farm income and the relentless pressure on farmer margin remains the central issue. Last year saw unprecedented and costly disruption in the sector – our biggest indigenous economic sector – as farmers broke under the pressure of producing particularly beef for prices that were less than the cost of production. We have farmers in all sectors receiving the same prices as their parents received 30 years ago.
‘Everyone sympathises, but we don’t want sympathy anymore. We want fair prices from a fair market and politicians need to deliver on this once and for all by tackling the most powerful links on the food supply chain. I think that politicians who go to farmers’ yards and doors are going to be taken aback by the fury felt on this issue,’ said Mr McCormack.
‘The second issue that is going to dominate this election for farmers is the growing attack on their livelihoods and the economic viability of rural Ireland by the most aggressive and arrogant elements of the environmental movement. Farmers recognise the reality of climate change, but we reject absolutely the idea that farmers alone will have to change their way of life and farmers alone will have to bear the astronomical costs of changing the way we produce food.
‘Balance badly needs to be brought to the debate and we need to hear publicly an acceptance that all sectors must play their role. Any candidate that comes out with glib messages unjustifiably targeting farmers will be challenged at every opportunity and interrogated on what they actually know about farming and rural life,’ concluded McCormack.