Michael D Higgins highlights ‘critical importance’ of family farms

Maintaining vibrant agriculture is vital for Ireland’s future, says President

President  Michael D Higgins highlights the importance of Ireland’s family farms while speaking at the International Family Farming Conference organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association.   Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

President Michael D Higgins highlights the importance of Ireland’s family farms while speaking at the International Family Farming Conference organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

President Michael D Higgins has spoken about the “critical importance” of family farms to the whole country and challenged the assumption that modernisation means urbanisation.

He was speaking at the International Family Farming Conference organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Teagasc in Dublin to mark the United Nations’s International Year of Family Farming. Mr Higgins said maintaining vibrant agriculture and preserving the family farm model was “of critical importance” to the future of this country.

The family farm was vital in ensuring no portion of the national territory was left neglected, economically, socially or environmentally. “It is a vital necessity if we want an Ireland of thriving local communities, not just people who are attached to an economy only. And it is a vital necessity if we want to continue to eat good food, and sustain a loving and rich relationship with our natural environment,” he said.

Urbanisation

Gorta-Self Help Africa chief executive Ray Jordan said it broke his heart to see families leaving the countryside for urban areas to give their children a better chance. “You have to make sure that agriculture and the skill involved in agriculture takes pride of place in the knowledge system in Africa, ” he said.

Bread basket

“If we put the farm family at the centre of development for the next 20 years, I have no doubt at all that this vision of never having a famine in the world again can absolutely be achieved,” he said.

IFA president Eddie Downey noted there were 500 million farm families in the world which made the family farm “the largest employer in the world”. However, many farm families were no longer getting a fair reward for the vital job they did.

Mr Downey said a combination of factors was sapping income and profitability out of family farming.

People were affected by extreme price volatility, escalating input costs, reduced European Union support, inequity in a food supply chain and costly political and societal bureaucratic interference. He said it was time the EU addressed the dominance of the major supermarket chains with regulation.