Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 23 September 2017

ICSA leader-in-waiting labels plan for Food Harvest 2020 'flawed document'

Patrick Kent
Patrick Kent
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The president-elect of the ICSA has called for a review and re-examination of the expansion targets set out in Food Harvest 2020.

Wexford farmer Patrick Kent, who defeated the current head of the organisation Gabriel Gilmartin in a presidential ballot last week, described Food Harvest 2020 as a "flawed document".

A 40pc growth in the value of beef exports by 2020 and a 20pc growth in lamb output are key targets of the plan.

However, Mr Kent questioned whether increasing output to such an extent was in the best interests of farmers.

He said many of the signatories to the Food Harvest plan would benefit from an increase in numbers but such a strategy meant more work and higher input costs for farmers without any guarantee of better returns or a higher income.

Mr Kent cited the increase in stock numbers as one of the reasons for the fodder crisis last spring.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Kent said he was honoured to have been elected and said he aimed to use his presidency to empower the organisation further and represent ICSA members as strongly as possible.

PRIORITY

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Mr Kent, a cattle and sheep farmer from New Ross, said his main priorities include tackling the issue of low farming incomes and the sustainability of small family farms.

"I'm very proud to represent a sector of farming that is producing food of a quality that is unsurpassable; wholesome, nutritious food unlike the empty-caloried junk food that's taking up so much space on retailers' shelves," Mr Kent said.

The challenges facing the suckler industry are also a concern for the Wexford man.

"We need to see a dramatic increase in the prices gained for quality weanlings and a corresponding fall in the cost of inputs. Otherwise, the targets set out under Food Harvest 2020 will have to be seriously revised. The current issues surrounding the price of bull beef also need to be tackled."

He also called for 50:50 co-funding for the Rural Development Programme under Pillar II.

Mr Kent will take up the reins at the ICSA AGM and annual conference early next year.

He defeated Mr Gilmartin, who has been head of the organisation for four years, by 59 votes to 48.

Irish Independent