Margaret Donnelly: Farm bodies need to stop the bickering and present a united front in difficult times
Two weeks ago, we reported on the INHFA call to exclude farmers availing of a nitrates derogation from Pillar 1 CAP payments.
The story and its significance resurfaced in my mind again this week. In some ways, it's just another demand from a farm organisation like the many others that cross my desk every week.
But this one has remained in my mind due to the divisiveness inherent in the statement.
It's easy to understand why the hill farmers would make such a call as their incomes continue to fall to ever more unsustainable levels.
It's also easy to understand why another farming organisation, the ICSA, would argue that there should be no space for dairy farmers in the Beef Support Package announced this week.
In the past, it was not common for farm organisations to encourage the removal of support from another farming sector.
It's hard to believe how divided farmers are at the moment, as the sheep, beef and suckler sectors continue to come under increased pressure.
And the growing tension and divisions between the farming sectors reflect the increased specialisation as mixed farms with a host of different enterprises become more uncommon.
Yet it's a sad development when farmers no longer view themselves as a collective group with common aspirations.
There's no one sector completely right or wrong in the current debate and many of the significant challenges facing farmers at the moment are common to all farmers.
Over the decades, it has been collective efforts that have yielded the best results in difficult times for farmers.
And all farmers would do well to consider that what's being imposed on the suckler sector today could be coming down the line for other sectors tomorrow.
Already the poor relation of farming, the beef sector is now being targeted as the one to take a bullet on climate action while dairy farming is protected from herd cuts.
The vast majority of these unviable suckler farms are in the west of Ireland and on farms where there are few other options for the farmer or the land.
Without them we will be left with a desolate countryside in many parts of the country. And that's bad news for all farmers.
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