They say we can learn a lot about the present by looking to the past, so here are four past front pages from the Irish Farmers Journal – two from the 1990s and two from the last decade.
Some headlines are now alien, while some have a more familiar feeling.
The last five years have seen a dramatic expansion of the Irish dairy sector, following the lifting of milk quotas. Back in 1990, the shackles were very much on and would remain on for the next 15 years.
However, over 2,000 farmers in the south of Ireland and 211 in the North found themselves in line for extra quota following a ruling by the EU Court of Auditors.
It resulted in somewhere between an extra 7,000 and 11,000 gallons of milk quota, back when milk was worth roughly 88 pence a gallon.
One thing that definitely hasn’t made it to 2020 is cattle and sheep headage schemes. These were replaced by the decoupled Single Farm Payment and further reformed to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
In 1995, they were worth £120m to 100,000 Irish farmers. As the year drew to a close, a consultancy report recommended radical reforms to the payments, including an off-farm income limit, exclusion of farmers over 66 years of age and moving to a system of one single livestock unit calculation.
As we moved into the noughties, the pound changed to the euro, but farmers’ appetite for investment wasn’t dimmed. The €1bn of borrowing that took place in 2005 moved farmer indebtedness to an estimate €6bn.
At the same time, trade issues dominated the agenda after comments by the then European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson that agriculture should be sacrificed in return for increased industrial and service sector trade.
European trade policy continues to cause controversy – Mercosur anyone?
Payments to farmers through the rural development programme have been mainstreamed over recent decades.
The headline at the end of 2010 has a familiar feel to a recent one in 2020, with concerns that some key schemes could finish up.
While its GLAS, ANC and BDGP now, back then to was the Agri-Envrionmental Options Scheme (AEOS), Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) and Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS). It was Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith who got to deliver that year.