Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

We must not get carried away by the buoyant atmosphere at the Ploughing

Making sure we don't overspend is vital despite good year -- and Athy needs a new traffic system!

Dermot Houlihan from Galway at the APF forestry show in Birmingham trying some 'must have' farm/forest transport. Joe Barry will review a pick of the forestry machinery at the show next week
Dermot Houlihan from Galway at the APF forestry show in Birmingham trying some 'must have' farm/forest transport. Joe Barry will review a pick of the forestry machinery at the show next week
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Crawling along in my car in the company of what seemed like half the population of Ireland on the opening day of the Ploughing Championships, I started to wonder what the hell I was doing there.

Now I don't want to sound like a professional moaner but I am most uncomfortable among crowds and in crowded places. Like a lot of other people, I probably suffer from some phobia brought on by packed, busy places such as railway stations, football matches etc.

The Ploughing is a great event but has huge drawbacks for people like me who like their bit of comfort and are no longer in their teens. Why can they not organise the flow of traffic so that we can arrive and leave without endless queuing?

To its credit, the National Ploughing Association (NPA) has huge sums of money on deposit and each year adds further to its bulging coffers. Surely with the resources at its disposal, the NPA could provide some decent traffic management.

I arrived in Monasterevin at 8am relieved to know I had only a few further miles to travel. Due to the volume of traffic, I eventually got in to the showgrounds well over two hours later and would have been quicker walking. I followed all the signed routes and still cannot understand why, at one point, the gardai were trying to get traffic from four different roads to squeeze into one. This inevitably led to huge delays.

Perhaps the NPA could take a look at how shows are managed abroad, where for large events a 'park and ride' system is normally in place, such as the one we have at Dublin airport. Next year I intend leaving home earlier. Hopefully, everyone else won't do the same.

Having said all that, despite the mud, crowds and lengthy queues, there is nothing anywhere else in Europe quite like our own Ploughing Championships.

I was remarking to one farmer how they don't get attendances like this at agricultural shows in Britain and he said that the Irish Land Commission was solely responsible. His reasoning was that in Britain you have huge farms and landowners with holdings of thousands of acres. Here in Ireland, since the Land Commission broke up all the large holdings, there is hardly anyone in the country who hasn't a cousin or uncle who owns a bit of land somewhere.

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Our history as an agricultural nation ties us to the land and even people who have lived in cities for generations retain a link with the land and a love of visiting their farming relations.

This year we got better prices for our produce and the weather was kind so, once again, the cheque books were out and there were smiling faces at the stands all around the show.

We are eternal optimists and quickly forget the bad years and wet harvests whenever prices are high and the sun shines. Even the banks are starting to realise that farmers are a more dependable lot to deal with than the building fraternity and they are slowly beginning to again provide at least some working capital to their farmer clients.

We must be careful, however. Buying a machine just because it can be written off against tax must be one of the worst reasons ever for buying. If a tractor, combine, firewood processor or whatever cannot be proven to pay back the capital cost in five years or less, then it is probably not worth the money. What is wrong with paying some tax in the good years and accumulating capital for future investment?

Having the cash for a substantial down-payment on any purchase saves money in the long term and reduces the potential for a future loss. Most farmers of previous generations would never buy anything without having the cash to pay for it.

Their prudence paid off in that they rarely had to worry about overdrafts, hire purchase bills, credit cards, leasing repayments or any of the means in use nowadays that enable us to buy now and pay later. When each evening, at the end of the 6pm news on RTE 1, Sharon Ní Bheoláin smiles at us and says "Do take care", perhaps she is remembering the years of easy credit and warning us of problems caused by overspending.

Irish Independent