No one gets up earlier than the Irish farmer - Taoiseach says 'thanks' for sector's economic contribution

Ready for a fight: Leo Varadkar
Ready for a fight: Leo Varadkar

Louise Hogan and Margaret Donnelly

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar drew on his 'funny' name and farming relations when addressing the IFA AGM in Dublin today, and said that as a champion for the self-employed and people who get up early in the morning and nobody gets up earlier than the Irish farmer.

"You might not know it, but the IFA has a long and distinguished history of welcoming people with a funny name who trained to be medical doctors at Trinity, such as me!" he told the crowd, referring to the very first IFA President Juan Greene.

Next up were his relations - he has one uncle in tillage and another in dairying, while summer visits to west Waterford, he said, left him in no confusion about the ups and downs of life on the farm.

The Taoiseach told the collected audience that agriculture is the heartbeat of rural Ireland, and farmers are the lifeblood with a recovered economy, thanks to the sacrifices farmers made and the policies we implemented.

Last year, exports reached a record €13.5 billion, he said, describing it as "an extraordinary performance of which you should be proud and for which, on behalf of the Irish people, I thank you."

And, 60 years on, Juan Greene’s vision for the future of Irish agriculture is still meaningful for us today, he said, while IFA's consistent involvement in Government-led stakeholder engagement, has fed into the whole-of- Government approach that is being taken in dealing with Brexit.

The Taoiseach then went on to detail what recent Government's have done for farmers, including introducing low-cost loans, increased resources for Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland and increased embassies to help tap into new markets.

"I know that running a farm can bring income volatility and we want to give farmers as much flexibility as possible when it comes to paying taxes. 

"So, recent budgets brought in the option to step out of income averaging in an exceptional year, allowing farmers to counterbalance a poor income year and pay their taxes in the remaining 4 year period instead.  I hope it’s helping to ease the pressure and reduce the stress of a bad year."

He also said that a hard-working, determined farming community deserves hard-working, determined ministers, "and you have two of the best" in Ministers Michael Creed and Andrew Doyle.

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However he reminded farmers that while Ireland is one of the world's most efficient food producers, agriculture contributes one-third of the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

He said that in the next few weeks, the Government will publish a Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy, which he said would give opportunity to create sustainable economic growth and employment by producing bio-based products, and he said that working together the Government and farmers could have an even better future.

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