Euro engagement critical says ICOS' man in Brussels
There is a view that happenings in Brussels have rarely been as important for Irish farmers. Between now and 2013 the latest round of CAP reform negotiations will be played out, mainly in the Belgian capital, setting not only the level farm payments but also the regulatory framework farmers will have to comply with up to 2020 and beyond.
The process will provoke lobbying on a grand scale, with the activities of the farm organisations dominating the scene from an Irish farmers', and media, perspective.
However, ICOS also aims to get in on the act and not just from a profile point of view. In recent months the organisation has revamped its Brussels operation, with a view to focusing its activities to reflect the changes happening within EU institutions.
Representing the co-operative body in Europe is Conor Mulvihill. A native of Meanus, Co Limerick, Mr Mulvihill is from a farming background.
He took up the reins in Brussels for ICOS in the last year and has been a busy man since. While CAP has hogged the limelight of late, Mr Mulvihill points out that there has been a raft of issues, all of which are critically important for Irish farming.
"Milk quotas, food labelling, the Mercosur talks, animal transport regulations and market supports, these are big issues for ICOS members," Mr Mulvihill explains.
They are important for farmers as well. However, Mr Mulvihill is quick to clarify that ICOS is an industry organisation and that, as such, its focus is always on the interests of its member co-ops.
"We have to delineate ourselves from the farm bodies. We are not here to represent farmers at an individual level but to represent the co-op movement and its members as a whole. Sometimes our objectives on a given issue overlap, but that may not always be the case."