The Agricultural Affairs committee had to adapt quickly to the online way of life, but they have taken it all in their stride. Here’s a quick look at where some of their hard work was directed in 2020.

Lobbying workshops

All three of the sub-committees were given the opportunity to attend a lobbying workshop. These workshops aimed to show members that the lobbying process is a simple one. They outlined the steps to engage in a successful lobbying exercise, along with games to put what they had learned into practice.

Budget 2021

This year’s pre-budget document was the largest ever produced by Macra. Zoom was the weapon of choice, and a benefit was that you didn’t have to rush from one county to another. Macra lobbied seven MEPS, 32 TDs, one senior minister, six junior ministers and five senators in the lead up to Budget 2021. Just three of these meetings were held in person. These meetings were led by the members, as they expertly displayed knowledge on these topics.

Issues high on the agenda of every meeting included access for agricultural college students to a COVID-19 student assistance fund, VAT exemptions on safety equipment and sexed semen, an extension of Consanguinity relief and farm consolidation relief, to name but a few.

Working groups

Before the previous Ag Affairs committee finished up, they set about deciding the key areas the next committee should focus on. These were dairy, tillage, environment, intensive housing systems and social sustainability. The chairs of these groups are Shane Fitzgerald (dairy), David Kelly (tillage), Thomas Duffy (environmental) and Daniel Hawthorne (intensive housing).

YFDG hubs

In July, there were several Young Farmer Development Group (YFDG) information nights, in which presentations were given by Alison Holmes, Macra Agricultural Skillnet; Mick Larkin, Land Mobility Service; and Shane Fitzgerald, Ag Affairs chair.

An online social media workshop was organised with guest speakers Brigid Quigley of Macra Agricultural Skillnet and Katriona Kinsella of the Irish Farmers Journal.

Brigid chatted to the 60-strong group about the funding and courses available to clubs. Katriona imparted her wisdom and shared her experiences in a fantastic presentation on the dos and don’ts of social media events.

Seven YFDG hubs were held during November. To these hubs, we invited several speakers, from MEPs to TDs and a variety of well-known faces to address the young farmers.

These hubs allowed young farmers to engage with their local MEP or TD and also gave them a chance to have their say on future Macra national policies.

Members views are vital to the Ag Affairs committee and Macra as a whole – policies are written with the members in mind.

It’s critical that members take the time to attend meetings, fill out surveys and reach out to their Ag Affairs representative or national staff. We want to hear what you have to say.

One Health: from soil to society

Macra usually hosts the annual conference on the same weekend as the rally, but due to COVID-19, it moved online this year. In partnership with CEJA (the European council of young farmers) and Devenish, a webinar was held on Friday 13 November.

This webinar explored the concerns of both the next generation of farmers and consumers regarding animal-sourced foods. Visit the official Macra na Feirme YouTube channel for the recording of the webinar.

A special thank you goes out to all of the 2020 Ag Affairs members for all of their passion and hard work. We look forward to continuing it all this year.