With policy change, there will always be personal views as to the pros and cons, winners and losers. Ag policy is no different.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Charlie McConalogue announced last year an increased rate of grant aid for women under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMs). Under qualifying criteria, female farmers can access grant aid of 60% [as opposed to 40%]. The new CAP will also include other female specific measures such as women-only Knowledge Transfer (KT) groups and research funding for European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) to examine women’s participation in agriculture. The aim: to support female farmers whose numbers in Ireland remain extremely low (approximately 12%).
I was disappointed but not surprised when some women vocalised strongly that they didn’t want or need this form of support.
My view was sought since ?the topic surfaced at farm meetings or in social media. There are numerous reasons - all valid and not to be dismissed - as to why there is division on this. Firstly; some feel that if there is a quota or a special allowance, that their achievements are not as legitimate.
It has been said to me many times “I don’t want a positon / job I didn’t earn. I want my accomplishments to be recognised on merit”. I understand that.
Secondly, some women, who have faced obstacles in their career - in farming or a corporate environment - may believe that as their success or achievement has been hard won, their attitude toward other women can be “I figured it out, you should too”.
A third is that, yes absolutely, there are cohorts of women that actually don’t need it. I hope that they never do and I just wish that no woman did.
Specifically in relation to female only discussion groups, negativity centred on why genders were being split with potential silos being created. Also there was perhaps a misunderstanding that this was decreed instead of a choice, which was never the case.
Research shows that women’s confidence can be increased by participating in single gender groups. Many women that actively participate in the discussion group system actually attend a women’s only group and also a mixed group. Speaking with a colleague on this, he made the point that no less so than with females, there are a lot of male farmers that lack confidence in groups with dominant males tending to drive those with less confidence out. He queried if there was another way to handle this issue.
These conversations came back into my head when I interviewed co-chair of Dairy Women Ireland, Ciara Lynch. Her view, that we should “check your privilege” resonated with me. We can never fully know what is happening in someone else’s life, or their head. Although a person may not need support personally doesn’t mean that it won’t be life changing for someone else.
In her book Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown writes “we need to dispel the myth that empathy is ‘walking in someone else’s shoes.’ Rather than walking in your shoes, I need to learn how to listen to the story you tell about what it’s like in your shoes and believe you, even when it doesn’t match my experiences.”
This is not an agriculture problem but a societal one, however, I don’t think many would disagree that there are too few female farmers.
If these measures give women a leg up, I am all for that. With our history of patrilineal inheritance, it could never be said that men have not been afforded special treatment.