Farmer says he can't understand why 'hobby farmers' should get equal payments

My week... Diarmuid Murray

Ken Whelan

Diarmuid Murray has just begun working on his uncle Seamus's 95 acre farm at Knockcroghery in Co Roscommon where is hoping to build up his own dairy herd over the next few years.

And when he is not in the milking parlour, Diarmuid (23) is away on Macra business having been elected as the organisation's Roscommon chairman last month. It's not a full-time job but it is taking up two days of his week at the moment.

"We have good old crack in Macra. It is a great education and it is great for socialising. I'd be on Macra business at least one day during the week and one at the weekend. I cover the Macra stands at the local shows and social evenings.

"We had a sheep racing contest at the Roscommon Lamb festival last month and everyone really enjoyed it," says Diarmuid.

To the uninitiated a sheep racing contest sees lambs and ewes run over an enclosed 40 metre course and the winner takes all as they say.

At the moment Diarmuid and his uncle are milking a herd of 105 black and whites and supplying milk to Aurivo at an average price of between 31c/l and 32c/l.

The plan is for Diarmuid to take over from his uncle in a few years time. In the meantime, he plans to continue building up the British Friesian herd. Calves from the herd are reared at the nearby farm of his parents Sean and Mary.

Diarmuid, the middle son of three, is obviously the farmer of the family. His brother Colm is doing an engineering degree at the University of Limerick and his other brother, Stephen, is on a post education grand tour and travelling through South America at the moment.

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When I ask Diarmuid if he ever got the travel bug himself the young farmer replies matter of factly: "No I am sure the world won't worry about me not travelling.

"I have been interested in farming since I became fascinated by tractors as a kid and I am only interested in dairy now."

Diarmuid has completed his Level 6 dairy management course at Ballyhaise College in Cavan and as far as he is concerned that's it with the studying for now.

Hobby farmers

His main focus is developing his uncle's farm and his own farming skills, but he also takes a keen interest in the farming scene nationally.

The two pebbles in his shoe are the Basic Payment Scheme and the cost of buying and renting land.

Diarmuid gets particularly animated by the structure of the EU's Basic Payment Scheme which he says is not geared enough towards the productive farmer.

He can't understand why "hobby farmers" should be in receipt of equal payments as 'real' farmers from Brussels.

"The idea behind farming is food production and the farm payment funds should be channelled mainly to those producing food.

"I am not against hobby farmers but the payment system should be changed to favour productive farmers who are producing the food," he says.

Diarmuid is equally animated by the cost of buying or renting land which he says is both "exorbitant and unsustainable" not only in Roscommon but throughout the country.

"I don't see how the prices being asked by auctioneers are sustainable.

"Nobody could make money from the land at the current purchase and rental prices," he says.

Economics aside, his main off farm interests are playing and watching GAA - he is active with the local St Dominic's club.

For now, though, most of his spare time is consumed by Macra business.

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