Farmers on Brexit: 'Farming is in my blood but the whole system is wrong'

James Grier from Letterkenny.
James Grier from Letterkenny.

Kathy Donaghy

We spoke to farmers at Raphoe Mart about the possible impact of Brexit on their businesses.

James Grier, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, beef farmer (60 hectares)

Hundreds of farmers attended the finale of Raphoe Mart's season last Friday
Hundreds of farmers attended the finale of Raphoe Mart's season last Friday

James has been running the family farm since 2001 when his father passed away. He says his farm’s proximity to the Border makes him anxious about Brexit.

“I’d say it’s looking like a no deal and I’d say whatever happens will hit us worse than in the North. But you still have cattle to feed,” he says.

“I wouldn’t be optimistic about the future. I have a 17-year-old son and he’d like to go into farming. He’s the next generation. All I can do is leave it in the best shape I can for him,” he adds.

David Adair, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, dairy farmer

David Adair from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.
David Adair from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

“Things are bad. On a scale of one to 10, I’d say we’re at about a three. I don’t know what way it’s going to go — Brexit is not helping.

"The Northern buyers are not coming anymore. I come to Raphoe every year. I used to show cattle as well. You just have to keep going,” David says.

Neville Myles, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, suckler farmer

“The glass is always half-full with me. You have to look to the future — there’s no point in being negative. Personally, I think there’s going to be another vote on Brexit. It’s hard to know — it’s never happened before,” says Neville.

“I’m 30 years farming and I think Brexit will have a huge impact on beef and suckler farmers. I killed cattle on Tuesday and I took €230 less than last year.

“I’ve three boys. The three of them want to farm. It’s all they want to do. The two older lads did college — there’s no living in farming. If your Single Farm Payment is all used up, I’m working for nothing. I loved the life — I was reared on it and it’s in my blood, but the whole system is wrong. It’s far worse than people realise,” says Neville.

He is hopeful that with so much uncertainty in farming, much of it stemming from Brexit, that a new group, the Beef Plan Movement, will help farmers take back some control over their livelihoods.

Kevin McCabe, Ardara, Co Donegal, Suckler and sheep farmer (140 hectares)

Kevin McCabe from Ardara.
Kevin McCabe from Ardara.

Kevin believes that Brexit will have an impact on prices for beef, but farmers won’t know the extent of that impact until a final deal is hammered out.

“When that happens, it will tell the tale. If there’s going to be a hard Border or if people went anywhere else for their beef, then that would be a problem.

“Prices are bad enough as it is. Our biggest buyer is Britain,” he says.

Kevin says farmers have to get on with things regardless, as stock still need to be fed.

“I’ve never seen a summer like it. We’re well used to dealing with whatever weather conditions there are. If you were worrying about everything in farming, you’d have stopped it a long time ago. It’s what we grew up with,” he says.

Robert Kee, Ballybofey, Co Donegal, Beef farmer (120 hectares)

“I think Brexit may not happen. I’m hoping there will be another referendum. I am a bit more cautious about buying at the minute,” he says.

Robert says the changing climate is having a big effect on farmers and while this year was a good year, last year was so wet. “You would definitely notice the temperatures seem to be milder in winter. For cattle in the sheds, it’s too warm for them. And in spring it’s hard getting them out,” he says.

John-Anthony McMullan, Convoy, Co Donegal, Suckler cows and sheep farmer (80 hectares)

John-Anthony says he doesn’t worry too much about the future and doesn’t know what the final outcome of Brexit will be. “From a buying point of view, you’d be stalling until you see what’s going to happen. I’d like to see it settle down,” he says.

John-Anthony, who also works carrying out pregnancy scanning of animals, says any restrictions in movement across the Border would affect him as he works on both sides.

John-Anthony McMullan from Convoy.
John-Anthony McMullan from Convoy.

“People don’t have any idea what it’s like in an area like this,” he says.

“You’re never going to be a millionaire, but I love the farm. The weather has been good and the weather does the work on the farm,” adds John-Anthony.

Joshua Miller, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Suckler and sheep farmer, (100 hectares)

Joshua Miller from Letterkenny
Joshua Miller from Letterkenny

“Brexit is leaving everything up in the air. Exports to Britain will be the biggest concern. Our main export country — that could be all gone. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen,” says Joshua.

He says his prices are easily down 20pc this year and is worried about the future. “Nobody wants this hard Border — we want free trade,” he says.

Joshua says despite changes including unpredictable weather, he is still optimistic. “The population is growing. We need food,” he says.

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