Where’s the pride gone in Irish farming? Most American farming blogs communicate a sense of pride in their chosen career, in how they farm, their farming practices, their ability to produce food for so many people, the fact that they are a 4th or 5th or even a 6th generation family farm. ?Irish farmers seem to be stereotyped as looking for handouts, as whingers, or as millionaires – after all, we have all that land at ?10,000 an acre sitting under us and Irish farming organisations don’t seem to be doing enough to combat that stereotype. Anytime farmers are in the media, it is because they have a placard in their hand, complaining about cuts to this or that. Yes, it is right to complain and to campaign but we need to do it with more pride. We’re not looking for handouts, there is a reason for the CAP payment, we work for it!
Watching RTE prime time last night made my blood boil. Not because there was a debate about the CAP reform but because that debate turned into a discussion on the programme and on twitter regarding whether there should be a CAP payment at all. Seeing it referred to as a subsidy doesn’t help either as it suggests that farmers are being subsidised for their work. They aren’t. It is a PAYMENT. It is a payment to ensure that medical records are kept, that animals aren’t injected with growth hormones, to ensure the food on your plate is safe to eat (unless it happens, of course, to be an unregulated horse burger from a horse that has been pumped with various medicines but that’s another blog post!). The suggestion that it wouldn’t matter that three quarters of farmers ?go out of business was met with bemusement by the farmers in the audience, they were speechless.
Irish farmers (for the most part) are hardworking people who invest in their business and take pride in the milk, meat and other produce they provide to mark. Yes, there are farmers on Farm Assist, these are most likely farmers who subsidised their own small farming businesses with building jobs during the Celtic Tiger era. There are farmers who spend months of the years abroad, leaving a wife to look after the dry stock, leaving behind young sons and daughters. ?Yes, there are farmers who are getting a CAP payment on 40 or 50 acres and they’re doing sod all – they’re running a few dry stock cattle on it and working in a 9-5 job at the same time. But, for the most part, farmers are hard-working, conscientious business people.
The CAP payment will stay for now, however, it will change. Yes, we will probably lose some of our CAP payment and yes, it will hurt. We are in the situation that we bought land, and we are making sizeable repayments to the bank every month, we can’t afford a workman, we need a workman, my husband is working 16 hours every day and is rarely in before 9:30 in the evenings. We pay a sizeable tax bill every October. The silver lining, of course, if the CAP payment is reduced, is that we won’t be paying as much tax!!!
Farming was looked down upon as a profession during the Celtic Tiger – by plumbers, architects, carpenters, engineers etc. I am not going to stand by and see 9-5ers in suits claim that farming is being subsidised. It is a PAYMENT to ensure that food prices in Europe stay competitive with the rest of the world (where farming practice is not as regulated if at all). It is a PAYMENT to ensure that you or your children won’t have to eat meat that may have growth hormones. It is a PAYMENT to ensure that farming continues in Ireland, that Irish countryside remains beautiful and attractive to holidaymakers and tourists. It is not the ?Co. Council that cuts the hedges around here and keeps the fields green – it is the farmers.
I am not the type of person to go to an IFA meeting or any other organisation and listen to or partake in rhetoric or longwinded speechmaking. I started this blog as a personal blog, to write about different things which will include farming. This blog is changing – it is going to become more farming orientated. I have a post in draft which reveals what the first milking heifers from various EBI bulls are like in the parlour – their yield, their temperament, their calving etc. Information like that, if included by farmers in blogs, could be of as much use when choosing AI sires as looking through a catalogue. But there’s another reason for farmers to blog – I don’t want to see farmers becoming a statistic, that there were x number of farmers in 2013, and reduced to x number by 2020. I want to see farmers showing how they farm, showing why Irish produce is so good to eat, showing why we get a PAYMENT.
I also want to see Irish farmers being proud of farming – rather than being stereotyped as whinging idle idiots who go trotting with cap in hand. We are not standing around the European table looking for crumbs. ?European governments don’t want a colossal healthcare bill in the future, they know the CAP payment is necessary – it’s about time the media, journalists, general public and farmers recognised that it is too – and for all the right reasons.
The world could be short of food in 20 or 30 years time. Already there is talk of using GM to provide enough food – imagine what might happen if the CAP and regulation were to disappear!
Be Proud and Blog – individual voices can be heard if there is enough of them, journalists read blogs. It sounded to me last night like there is a lot of educating to be done and if farmers don’t do it – heaven help us all!