Why some of these farmers are reluctant to plant forestry
Storm Powell visited Baltinglass Mart where she spoke to farmers about the impact of beef feedlots, forestry planting and the current Government's record on farming
Rathvilly, Co Carlow.
John (36) is a beef and tillage farmer from Williamstown. "Very few farmers are in favour of factory feedlots being used to regulate price," he says, "but there is a need for the TB restricted feedlot. We must distinguish between them."
John has no plans to plant forestry. "The farm has been in the family for five generations and has always been beef and tillage." He is not in favour of compulsory afforestation, but is aware of the need to reduce carbon emissions. "But diversification must be linked to profit. We've an ageing farming population and we must encourage the younger generation to stay in farming."
He applauds the work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture and welcomes their recent report on the future of beef. He is concerned that poorer carbon efficient beef than our own will be introduced to the EU market. John calls for a properly funded coupled payment for suckler cows. He asks the Government: "What is the plan for farming in the future? Why is food cheaper now than in 2001? Why have farmers' costs increased so much?"
Glen of Ammal, Co Wicklow
Sean (67) has been farming all his life and is a retired postman. He runs a dry stock enterprise of cattle, sheep and draught horses on 43ac.
"Feedlots should be limited in the amount of cattle they produce," says Sean.
"There are too many cattle in the country and, with global warming, we will need to reduce numbers."
Sean planted 15ac of forestry five years ago. "The land was away from our house, quite wet and marginal. It was the best thing I ever did."
Though he has no immediate plans to plant more, he may in the future.
"But I like the stock on my land. Farmers are reluctant to plant as they feel they've lost that land to farming. But there is an income to be made from trees."
Though global warming is a major challenge for the current Government, Sean feels that they are doing a good job and wouldn't like to see a change. "Employment is high. The country is in a good place."
Tullow, Co Carlow.
Dermot farms a 150ac dry stock and tillage farm with his son near Tullow. "The feedlots are cutting out the small man and allowing the big man to dictate cattle prices," says Dermot, who would favour a limit on the amount of cattle they produce. "Forestry is ideal for land which has a meagre return," says Dermot, but he doesn't plan to grow trees: "It's a waste of good land."
Dermot is happy with the present Government.
"They are doing what they can within the restrictions posed to them. Brexit is a big worry. I can't see Britain crashing out without a deal. It's vital that our export market to Britain is maintained. Our Minister for Agriculture is doing his best to represent the views of Irish farmers."
Manager of Baltinglass Mart
"Feedlots owned by individuals are not a problem, but feedlots owned and run by factories have a monopoly and are affecting beef prices. I worry about the future of beef farming. Guys won't be able to continue unless prices increase," says Tom.
"Farm diversification, including forestry, is certainly an option for farmers who must look elsewhere to increase income on holdings. Farmers in this area are looking at growing hemp, producing hazelnuts and growing crops to produce biofuels.
"Suckler margins have been decimated due to poor prices and high costs. It's sad to see farmers struggling who have spent a lifetime building up their herd. There will be a serious problem if the suckler herd is wiped out. Dairy cattle are not the right quality for beef.
"The present Government has not supported the beef and sheep farmer and we need a change.
"Farmers are not being adequately paid for a top quality product. We need more live exports to take Friesian type dairy cattle out of the beef system. We need big shippers."
Hacketstown, Co Carlow.
Tom is a factory agent and grazes cattle on 25ac at Kilmacart. He doesn't agree in limiting feedlots. "If you reduce numbers in feedlots, the suckler man will get very little for his store cattle as there will be few customers," he says.
"Forestry is an ideal crop to reduce our carbon footprint and very suited to waste land."
Tom doesn't feel that the present Government is doing enough in our fight for increased export markets.
"We shouldn't be depending so much on the UK market. A no-deal Brexit will result in tariffs on beef that will cost millions to the farmer and agri-food sector. We need to be looking further afield."
In addition, Tom says, "keeping up with Department rules and regulations is endless, I would like to see the burden of paperwork eased".
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