Policies on farms in Ireland and in the EU “had gone too far in one direction,” according to EU Commissioner, Mairead McGuinness.
McGuinness, the EU Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union spoke at a conference celebrating Ireland joining the European Economic Community, now the European Union, 50 years ago in 1973, held yesterday (October 27) at the Teagasc Research Center in Ashtown.
Commissioner McGuinness said: “Farm policy had gone too far in one direction, of a production focus only, without taking into account the consequences on the environment and climate.
“We need to slow down and take stock. We need to look at what’s working, what’s not working, and how do we need to change.”
Change in the EU
Change is a key element of Irelands five decades in the EU, as seen by various facts presented to those attending the conference yesterday.
From discussing key moments of Irish agriculture in the EU, including the introduction and the removal of milk quotas, it was widely acknowledged by a range of speakers that Irish farmers hold an exceptional ability to bring innovation to farming.
“Farmers have adopted technologies and new ways of working over the last 50 years and they can do that again in the years ahead,” Commissioner McGuinness said.
According to Professor Frank O’Mara, director of Teagasc, joining the EU marked the beginning of “a period of enormous economic, political, and social change” for Ireland and that agriculture was at the “front and center of that change”.
The change is set to continue in the EU, as Commissioner McGuinness told those in attendance that the development of the next CAP will see modification to the countries in the EU.
This development, according to Commissioner McGuinesss, “will also involve enlargement of the EU” and added “we may go at some time from 27 to over 30 member states, one of them potentially Ukraine, a massive producer of grains and oils”.
Further change must be seen through the involvement of women in agriculture, as the EU Commissioner said they “will be the drivers of positive change in agriculture.
“Women who work on and off farm are sustaining agriculture. They pay for the college fees, they pay for the extras, while the farm pays for the farm.”
The growth of Irish agriculture was highlighted by Professor Pat Dillon, director of research in Teagasc, who provided data to show how the dairy, beef, sheep, and tillage sectors have all seen increased production since Ireland joined the EU.
Challenges to Ireland’s agricultural outputs during these five decades were highlighted by Conor Ryan, CEO of Arrabawn and chair of Dairy Industry Ireland.
Prior to the lifting of dairy quotas in 2015, Ryan said those in the dairy sector were “in an industry that was static.
“The lifting of quotas was absolutely essential.”
The increased production, according to Ryan, caused Ireland to go from “being in a protected environment, to being at a global scale”.
Ryan added that outside of the dairy industry returning the “best possible prices” for its members, that the “two biggest objectives” of the industry are “emissions targets and water quality”.