Margaret Donnelly: A united front could be the most potent weapon at farmers' disposal
It looks like there won't be much good news for farmers in today's budget.
With Brexit looming large, it's obvious the Department of Finance is keen to rein in public spending. Clearly, farmers haven't shouted loudly enough this time around to get a share of what is being spent.
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And it's fair to ask if farm organisations have only themselves to blame for this?
The farming sector in this country needs a unified and collective voice to ensure its future.
Farming, across all the sectors, has never been under as much scrutiny and criticism from all angles.
It is in danger of becoming the next 'big tobacco' with a public perception of it as a 'dirty' industry.
If that perception continues to take hold, there is very little hope of reversing it.
Now is the time to act, but it must be in a unified way.
We have never had as many farming organisations, all of them vying for allegiance from limited pool of members and financing.
Could a solution be found in an umbrella farming body for all the farming organisations?
This could take the form of a Congress which would present a united front on the big issues while allowing its members pursue their own agendas on organisation-specific matters.
We saw a step in this direction during the recent beef dispute when farm organisations came together to agree on tactics in talks with the factories.
Beef Task Force
Next week's Beef Task Force is an opportunity for those who represent farmers to agree that it's the farmer at the end of the food chain who needs results, not organisations?
No one sector, be it dairy, beef, sheep or tillage, can provide a viable future for all farmers in this country. And none can or should try to exist without the others. A succeed at any cost mentality in one sector is not a policy anyone should be pursuing.
A unified umbrella group would be a stronger voice for the farming sector.
It would have the authority and numbers to lobby and, if necessary, protest on behalf of all farmers without the politics of farm organisations diluting the underlying cause.
And a united front is the most potent weapon at farmers' disposal at a time when farming as we know is facing a fight for survival.
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