IFA president Tim Cullinan

Plan to revitalise rural Ireland sparks annoyance and frustration amongst farm groups

The government's plan to breathe new life into rural Ireland sparked annoyance from farming groups.

The announced prompted IFA to snap at them to get on with it rather than talk about "re-heated" policies, while the ICMSA dismissed the plan as “fundamentally deficient”.

IFA President Tim Cullinan urged the Government to implement it.

“Much of what is contained in the report about farming and food is already in train, or refers to commitments that have been made before, but have yet to be implemented,” said Mr Cullinan. “It does acknowledge the central role played by the agri-food sector outside of the main cities. For the sector to maintain its contribution, the Government has to pursue policies that allow it to grow,” he said.

Tim Cullinan said the report raises valid aspirations about what’s needed to develop the economy on a regional basis, but it contains initiatives which are re-heated.

“For example, the single biggest barrier to making rural communities more attractive places to live and work is the lack of broadband. Unless this is rectified, it remains very difficult for families in rural areas to function,” he said. "The same applies to other services – roads, transport, banking – which require upgrading if they’re to be fit for purpose."

The IFA President said the recent announcement about the closure of bank branches runs counter to the plan to have vibrant rural communities.

Meanwhile, ICMSA's president Pat McCormack said the plan suffered from “the chronic ailment” of governmental policy in that it was notably heavy on vague aspirations and light on any meaningful detail as to how these were to be realised.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack

Mr McCormack said that his Association “obviously” wanted our rural areas rejuvenated but claimed those looking for detailed planning and commitment in this document would look in vain.

He cited the chapter dealing with farming, forestry and food production, saying: “Everything about the way that farming is dealt with in the document screams ‘managed downgrading’ of the sector. I stand to be corrected, but I was unable to see the words ‘commercial farming’ mentioned even once. This does not bode well if the Department charged with taking rural Ireland forward over the next five years fails to recognise and name the one sector that has proved repeatedly that it has the capacity to do just that. I have to make this clear: no amount of farmers’ markets will replace the economic input provided by our world-class commercial farming and processing sector.

“Just once, I’d love to see an Irish Government document that categorically committed to supporting our commercial farming sector in the transition to a low emissions basis. What we seem to get instead is ‘penny packet’ policy that puts forward a multitude of relatively small initiatives that cannot – and will not – allay farmers' fears that we are an ‘add on’ component to the rural Ireland envisaged by some elements in Government and, most particularly, some elements of media."

He refers to the first sentence of the section dealing with the role of farming, forestry, which reads: ‘Agriculture is both a primary economic driver and a critical component of the social fabric which sustains rural communities’.

"Farming and food production is not just an element of Ireland’s rural economy; it is Ireland’s rural economy and we think that a rural development policy document that doesn’t recognise that is fundamentally deficient,” said Mr McCormack.

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