Saoirse McHugh: The time is right for an agricultural revolution in Ireland

Myler

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Is there any appetite amongst Irish farmers for such a revolution?
In the context of Brexit, we're aware of how Irish farmers are dependent on the UK market.

If, instead, they were dependent on the domestic market, it would look like a more secure position for them. But does this feature in their outlook at all?

The sentence in the article that jarred with me was this one
There is a golden opportunity for the Beef Plan Movement to demand a re-prioritisation of our agricultural system away from product export and towards locally sensitive, resilient and ecological food production.
The Beef Plan Movement is nowhere near seeking a re-prioritisation of production. They are completely bogged down in the mentality that they produce beef, and the rest of the world needs to organise itself to buy all the beef they produce at the price they want.

I felt it was a strange way of engaging with farmers - just talking past the issue.

Although, in fairness, good to see the Greens at least making the obvious point (that farmers would be more secure if they shifted their dependency to the domestic market) that others avoid making.
 


Lumpy Talbot

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Well, I'm not sure there will be an agricultural revolution other than the one I can clearly see being foretold in the foretelling in my crystal ball.

That is the risks to the small farm of 40acres or so from corporates leaning on the market in order to drive precisely those farmers out of business so they can buy up the agricultural land cheap, the other main risk being somewhat related to the first in terms of the replacement of the farmer, his wife, (or farmer and husband) the sons and daughters and farm labourers with little robots.

Robots that feed the nicely habitual animal the cow and milks them in the morning, robots that patrol up and down neat drills laid by the automated farm machine controlled by a fellow in a camera centre control room in Gort.

Drones that water the crops, spray the crops, check the crops minutely for early signs of disease and so on.

Not to be too depressing the crystal ball also suggests that there may be positive responses available to the traditional Irish farmer of 40acres.

Firstly the small farmers in Ireland could look to the co-operative model to build their own corporation which guards the land but is owned by the shareholders- the Irish farmer who used to have 40acres but now has access to the benefits of 400,000 acres, the economies of purchasing scale that comes with it.

Second positive response available is linked also to the first. Make sure the co-op owned by the Irish farmer with 40acres and a whole lot more like him is involved in the developments around emerging technology in agriculture.
 

silverharp

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not sure i would trust the greens with their attitude to agriculture, it would be like letting an order of runs run Miss World, would you really interested in the final product
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Sentence in the OP caught my eye again there.
In the context of Brexit, we're aware of how Irish farmers are dependent on the UK market.
I can quantify the worst possible scenario for Irish agriculture with Brexit in that a severe contraction of up to 10% of our economy is pretty much the outside edge of the data.

I submit though that there is some appealing data available if you extend your telescope quite a bit and note that the island next door has some very large urban conurbations, is very developed in terms of a larger landmass but a great concrete sprawl which has reduced the amount of land available to farm.

Much of UK farming (perhaps a mistaken impression from television rather than factual input) it seems to me is huddled about the hills of England and the mountainous mounts as well.

My little internal eye keeps alighting on the fact that there are 66million or thereabouts on the island next door. The UK is very much an importer of a large portion of its food supply.

Looking at Ireland. Lot of farming land there, famous for the great vales as well as the mountain farms and the produce that emerges from it certainly around the world. 5 million or so population, most of those clustered around relatively small but pretty cities.

In the same way that Kent is known as the garden of England for its lush produce and agricultural output, Ireland has in the gloomier corners of the past been forced to be England's garden at great cost to us and no reward at all.

The same conditions pertain, there are large cities which need to be fed and where the ability to meet needs is I think a risk which looms larger with Brexit rather than less.

So we can think of these markets next door all clamouring for the market garden and there we are next door with a grand big vegetable garden, orchards, much sea to the west of us for mariculture which we have to get further into.

Worst case scenario for Ireland? Temporary 10% economic contraction. We've seen worse in our recent lifetimes. Best case scenario. Now we can be the supplier to Her Maj but this time we get paid.

That last bit makes me smile.
 

parentheses

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Sentence in the OP caught my eye again there.

I can quantify the worst possible scenario for Irish agriculture with Brexit in that a severe contraction of up to 10% of our economy is pretty much the outside edge of the data.

I submit though that there is some appealing data available if you extend your telescope quite a bit and note that the island next door has some very large urban conurbations, is very developed in terms of a larger landmass but a great concrete sprawl which has reduced the amount of land available to farm.

Much of UK farming (perhaps a mistaken impression from television rather than factual input) it seems to me is huddled about the hills of England and the mountainous mounts as well.

My little internal eye keeps alighting on the fact that there are 66million or thereabouts on the island next door. The UK is very much an importer of a large portion of its food supply.

Looking at Ireland. Lot of farming land there, famous for the great vales as well as the mountain farms and the produce that emerges from it certainly around the world. 5 million or so population, most of those clustered around relatively small but pretty cities.

In the same way that Kent is known as the garden of England for its lush produce and agricultural output, Ireland has in the gloomier corners of the past been forced to be England's garden at great cost to us and no reward at all.

The same conditions pertain, there are large cities which need to be fed and where the ability to meet needs is I think a risk which looms larger with Brexit rather than less.

So we can think of these markets next door all clamouring for the market garden and there we are next door with a grand big vegetable garden, orchards, much sea to the west of us for mariculture which we have to get further into.

Worst case scenario for Ireland? Temporary 10% economic contraction. We've seen worse in our recent lifetimes. Best case scenario. Now we can be the supplier to Her Maj but this time we get paid.

That last bit makes me smile.
They actually produce a huge amount of grain on the prairies of east Anglia. 40 years of EU membership has made UK agriculture highly efficient.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
They actually produce a huge amount of grain on the prairies of east Anglia. 40 years of EU membership has made UK agriculture highly efficient.
Perhaps so and good luck to them but there is no way that the UK grows or produces enough to support its population. I think it is a thin reserve tank for 66 million people.

In fact I know that the data on the food supply chain suggests that the UK really does need imported foodstuffs on a constant basis and would be in difficulty immediately if there was a halt or crisis in the supermarket logistics chain.

Ireland would struggle I suspect to support 5 million but would stand a better chance just on the numbers and a much closer ratio of foodstuffs available per head within the state. We are a notably expert producer of high quality agricultural output, after all.

I still think that there positives for Ireland to pick up some extra business by taking up the slack where UK exporters are struggling to get goods to Paris, Brussels, Berlin..

The conclusion I have in my head is that there are opportunities for Ireland ahead, in particular in traditional export goods, but we do have to watch out for the 'combine' farm companies who won't be long eyeing up our patchwork of small t medium sized farms and getting ideas. Not with a 66 million head market next door and an even bigger one via the French and Dutch and German ports.
 

middleground

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Irish farmers get over 1.6 billion euro in direct subsidies plus another 500 or so million on cheaper green diesel and capital tax reliefs. They don't need to worry about Brexit as long as that tap stays turned on. It reminds me of when smoking in public places could not be challenged.
 

Barroso

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Perhaps so and good luck to them but there is no way that the UK grows or produces enough to support its population. I think it is a thin reserve tank for 66 million people.

In fact I know that the data on the food supply chain suggests that the UK really does need imported foodstuffs on a constant basis and would be in difficulty immediately if there was a halt or crisis in the supermarket logistics chain.

Ireland would struggle I suspect to support 5 million but would stand a better chance just on the numbers and a much closer ratio of foodstuffs available per head within the state. We are a notably expert producer of high quality agricultural output, after all.

I still think that there positives for Ireland to pick up some extra business by taking up the slack where UK exporters are struggling to get goods to Paris, Brussels, Berlin..

The conclusion I have in my head is that there are opportunities for Ireland ahead, in particular in traditional export goods, but we do have to watch out for the 'combine' farm companies who won't be long eyeing up our patchwork of small t medium sized farms and getting ideas. Not with a 66 million head market next door and an even bigger one via the French and Dutch and German ports.
Ireland produces plenty of food, and could feed way more than 5 million; but the problem is that we do not produce the range of foodstuffs that we have become accustomed to consuming.
During and before the famine, the country produced loads of food, and were it not for much produce being exported, the famine would have killed few enough. However, grain and meat were being exported all through the famine. If that food had been kept here and distributed evenly, the population would have survived.
Today, we are used to eating foodstuffs from abroad that aren't and in many cases cannot be produced here - think of the fruit you eat, the vegetables you consume etc, your rice and pasta. Even potatoes are imported in huge quantities nowadays.

If we returned to eating meat, dairy, fish and onions, cabbage, carrots and potatoes we'd be fine - and still able to export food too; but we're not going to return to that diet any time soon.
 

Clanrickard

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RasherHash

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Irish farmers get over 1.6 billion euro in direct subsidies plus another 500 or so million on cheaper green diesel and capital tax reliefs. They don't need to worry about Brexit as long as that tap stays turned on. It reminds me of when smoking in public places could not be challenged.
Eh, we're a net contributor now and have been for years.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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As a sidebar to this thread but close enough really, the wealthy landowners of the UK have been able to take advantage of European Union agricultural subsidies even though their estates may produce little to nothing on the market. They've been raking it in for years in fine style via this route.

They can't be very pleased with the Brexiteers at the moment as their pockets are definitely going to be hit.

It will be even worse for the shockingly small group of people who own much of the land of Scotland. There have been some interesting signs of the Scottish government having a look at this private land ownership in Scotland and wondering whether it is equitable.

There will be some pissed off Dukes both north and south of Hadrian's Wall come 1st November. The Scots lairds are facing an even bigger threat to their inherited or bought estates.
 

middleground

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Eh, we're a net contributor now and have been for years.
Exactly folk in the city are in effect subsiding farmers by around 2 billion euro per annum. This results in low beef prices from the factories because they know the farmer is receiving the subsidies.

Figures from Teagasc’s National Farm Survey 2017 show that average payments per farm represented by the survey amounted to almost €18,000, accounting for 56pc of family farm income.

Family farm households receive non-agricultural State benefit payments also.
 

Clanrickard

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Dame_Enda

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The CAP needs to be redirected towards support for tillage rather than beef.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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It definitely needs to be steered away from landowners whose land carefully qualifies for EU subsidy but is non-productive as a personal possession.

That really needs to be stopped.
 

wombat

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The CAP needs to be redirected towards support for tillage rather than beef.
They did that years ago and we had Irish farmers growing wheat on hillsides to collect subsidies while Saskatchewan farmers were losing their farms because the EU were dumping wheat on the world market. Its why they switched to the single payment system.
 

soubresauts

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There are very good ideas in Saoirse McHugh's article, and I'm sure her heart is in the right place. However, the chances of implementing any of those ideas are very slim. Perhaps the biggest barrier to implementation is Eamon Ryan.

Eamon and his yesmen, I mean, yespersons, will join the Government at the earliest opportunity, probably after the next GE. And they will cast aside their good ideas to do so. As for principles, don't make me laugh.
 


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