'The young people have no incentive to remain on the land'
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed must give a top priority to stemming the flight from the land by young people, says Mayo suckler and sheep farmer June Burke.
She believes that small holdings along the western seaboard will be left empty unless a serious initiative is undertaken by the Department to keep young people on the land.
"Farmers in the west can see what is happening. The younger generation are just not around, what with educational opportunities and new jobs," says June, who has worked on the farm all her life and also ran a florist enterprise in her local town of Westport up to a few years ago.
"The young people are simply leaving the land. They have no incentive to remain.
"Something has to be done about this before there are a lot of small holdings along the western seaboard with 'For Sale' signs outside them or left overgrown and unused."
June seconds what the late political commentator John Healy used to tell the government of his day about farming in the west: make sure you take care of the farmers because they will take care of the land and the tourists.
June, who farms with her husband Ken on her parents' holding at Knappagh outside Westport, practises what she preaches.
Four years ago she transferred the bigger and original family farm on the opposite side of Westport to their then 30-year-old son Trevor, who was the only one of three siblings who took an interest in farming having completed his agricultural studies at the old Multyfarnham College.