Vast majority of farmers in Ireland committed to climate action, says IFA president

Farmers ‘don’t recognise how they are portrayed in certain sections of the media and by some environmental commentators’

Molly Fitzhenry (2) picking strawberries on the farm of her grandfather Jimmy Kearns in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. The family feature in the Sustaining Ireland campaign launched by Agri Aware and IFA, which aims to strengthen the connection between farmers and the general public. Photograph: Holst Photography

Molly Fitzhenry (2) picking strawberries on the farm of her grandfather Jimmy Kearns in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. The family feature in the Sustaining Ireland campaign launched by Agri Aware and IFA, which aims to strengthen the connection between farmers and the general public. Photograph: Holst Photography

 

The vast majority of farmers in Ireland are committed to climate action, according to Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan.

He said members of his organisation did not recognise themselves in how farmers are portrayed in certain sections of the media and by some environmental commentators.

Speaking at the launch of a campaign to showcase of “our predominantly grass-based, family-farm sectors”, Mr Cullinan said its main aim was to increase the general public’s connection with farmers.

“Their stories of commitment and pride in their work are often overlooked in the ongoing debate about the sector’s future,” he added.

The campaign, which is being jointly run with Agri Aware, also seeks “to reflect the variety of sectors producing food in this country – and the critical role it plays in the economy and society”, he said.

Throughout 2020, during a global pandemic, Irish farmers continued to produce top-quality, nutritious food, Mr Cullinan said.

“This, in turn, supported Ireland’s hard-hit economy. Agriculture is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector and has, at various points in recent history, literally ‘sustained’ Ireland and its people through some of its most challenging periods.”

“However, a narrative is taking shape that might lead people to think that we don’t need the food produced here or the families who work so hard to produce it.”

“I hear from members all the time how they don’t recognise themselves in how they are portrayed in certain sections of the media and by some environmental commentators. The vast majority of farmers in Ireland are committed to climate action,” he said.

Farmers wanted to continue a legacy that has been passed down through generations and ensure their children would be able to continue to live and work on the land if they choose, the IFA leader said.

“We want our vibrant family-farm model to stay. This campaign will bring these families to the forefront and tell their stories.”

Agri Aware chairman Alan Jagoe said Agri Aware was established 25 years ago to create a national awareness of the value of modern agriculture and farming.

“In the intervening time, while agriculture has continued to play a critical role in Ireland’s economic and social development, the connection between farmers and the public has lessened. We want to strengthen that connection.”

Mr Jagoe added: “We hope that along with other initiatives underway, such as our own ‘AgCredible’ social media programme; the National Dairy Council’s ‘From the ground up’ campaign; and the work of Meat and Dairy Facts; we can rebuild the connection between the producers of food, the products they supply and the people who consume them every day”.

Coinciding with the launch, on-farm signs are being erected in every county.

“We have also created a digital campaign that will run throughout the summer months and a billboard campaign that will appear as restrictions continue to ease and people begin to more freely around the country.

“The campaign will showcase farmers from around Ireland involved in various sectors such as livestock, dairy, tillage and fruit and vegetables,” Mr Jagoe said.