'Renting will never give me the reward I want from farming'- MEP hopeful plans to sell cows next year

Jason Fitzgerald
Jason Fitzgerald
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

North Cork dairy farmer and MEP hopeful Jason Fitzgerald has said that he is leaving farming in January and selling his 73 cow dairy herd as he says farming on designated land means he will never be able to farm the way he wants to.

Jason, who is founder of the Irish Farmers with Designated lands group and teaches Economics part-time at UCC, while balancing a job with Munster AI told FarmIreland that he plans to sell his dairy herd that he rears on a rented farm in Kanturk in January.

“In 2009 I lost my job in construction and began a job with Munster AI but I always wanted to go in to dairying and in 2011 I rented my first farm in Kilbrin with the hope of being able to sell land at my home place in Ballydesmond and then buy the farm in Kilbrin but this didn’t work out,” he said.

“ I couldn’t sell the land in Ballydesmond because it is designated it is worthless. Farmers don’t want to buy that land.

“I’m now renting a farm in Kilbrin but I plan to sell my cows next year because it’s all proving too difficult. Renting will never give me the reward I want from farming and farming in Ballydesmond means I’ll never be able to farm the way I want to either. I’ve three young daughters to think of and had to face the reality.”

Mr Fitzgerald says income volatility of dairying and the harsh weather conditions experienced over the last year was another factor as to why he plans to leave the sector.

“I never want to see a spring like last spring again. It was a dark time for farmers. On top of the weather I was completing my Masters in Economics at UCC. I was milking cows in the morning and evening and working for Munster AI and then I was studying until 2 in the morning and up again at six” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald is seeking a nomination to run as an MEP for Fianna Fail and says if he was successful he will be campaigning for an income volatility scheme to be introduced to help farmers.

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“An income volatility scheme must be implemented. Farmers need it because they can’t just keep on taking what is thrown at them. Anytime there is a crisis they have to go running to the government when there should already be tools in place that they can fall back on.

“Brexit is on the horizon and farming needs to be at its strongest to face it but at the moment it is at the weakest is has been for a decade. “

Mr Fitzgerald added that a minimum prices for cull cows needs to be put in place to help farmers who are “on their knees.”

“Everyone is affected but there’s a cohort of farmers that are absolutely on their knees. Factories have dropped their prices and marts have followed suit. Farmers usually sell empty cows at this time of year and they can’t do that because the basics of supply and demand aren’t there,” he said.

“A minimum price for cull cows of €3 per kg needs to be introduced for cull cows until next spring because at the moment vulnerable farmers are being played upon.”

If he was elected to the EU Parliament Mr Fitzgerald said he would also continue to give a voice to the Irish Farmers with Designated Land Group  who are are campaigning for a statuary payment of €350/ha to be issued to them on annual basis.

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