An exciting new farm awards scheme, which is being launched this week in the Farming Independent, aims to identify and reward the sector's best operators.
Offering a prize fund of €25,000, the Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards 2014 is being run by Zurich Insurance and the Farming Independent in association with the ICMSA, Landrover and Teagasc.
The competition features eight separate categories, with €2,500 on offer for each category winner and an additional prize to the value of €5,000 for the overall Grand Prix winner.
The eight categories include dairy, beef, tillage, sheep, equestrian, alternative or other enterprises and agricultural contractor of the year. The eighth category is targeted at the 'rising stars' of farming and aims to reward innovation within the sector.
Speaking at the launch of the competition, Michael Doyle, head of agri-business with Zurich Insurance, expressed the company's delight at being involved.
"We are very excited to be partnering with the Farming Independent for these awards. It's not only a fantastic platform to showcase the best of the Irish farming community but it also gives recognition to an industry that plays a significant role in the economy," Mr Doyle said.
"Zurich can trace its roots in Ireland back to 1950 and has always had a long-standing connection with the farming community through its life and pension products in Ireland.
"It was a natural progression for us to enter the general insurance market for farmers and we are delighted with the phenomenal success since its launch in late 2012," he added.
ICMSA president John Comer said the association was delighted to be involved in the awards.
"We are sure that the awards will become an integral and vital part of the Irish farming calendar," Mr Comer said.
The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, said he welcomed programmes such as the Farmer of the Year Awards, which promote excellence in the agri-foods sector.
"The awards are a great initiative and I wish the best of luck to all the entrants and my congratulations to the eventual winners," Minister Coveney said.