The generational gap between consumers and farmers is growing. When I was in primary school in Castleknock in the 1980s, most of my schoolmates had parents from the country and many of those parents were from farming backgrounds.
They would have been streetwise in terms of what went on a farm.
Move on a generation, how many primary school children today have ever stepped foot on a farm, not only living in suburban Dublin but throughout towns and villages in rural Ireland? In today’s progressive and diverse Ireland, there is no shock horror anymore not to have a family connection with a farm.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) protest last Friday highlighted concerns their members have about the future direction of the CAP. It’s fair to say that members of other farm organisations not in agreement with the IFA position on convergence among other issues, would still have plenty in common in terms of, for example, feeling maligned.
Commission vice president Frans Timmermans is the figurehead that will determine the future of Irish farming rather than the agricultural commissioner
We are in a different era now from when the farm lobby wielded huge power in Brussels. The CAP share of the EU budget has dwindled from virtually all of it to around 30c in the euro now. The ground has shifted and the man charged with driving the EU Green Deal, Commission vice president Frans Timmermans is the figurehead that will determine the future of Irish farming rather than the agricultural commissioner. It’s the clear message emerging from Brussels about the future direction of food production.
The influence of the parliament is also stronger where the mood music is more concerned with what farmers are going to do about protecting biodiversity rather than producing a secure supply of affordable food. The climate emergency has precipitated this change in direction. But it’s happening with the help of clear messaging during a time when farmers have been too preoccupied fighting meat factories and co-ops for a fair price. Processors really do have a lot to answer for in all this.
In the modern impatient world of instant gratification, the end rather than the means is what’s demanded
As a result, the entire sector is playing an almost unwinnable game of catch up, six points down playing into the wind in the second half in terms of regaining public and political support regarding the climate emergency. In the modern impatient world of instant gratification, the end rather than the means is what’s demanded. Farmers have a good solid story to tell about what they are doing to guarantee carbon emission reductions farm by farm. But few are prepared to listen or give credit.
The evolution of farming and rural life naturally leads to a bigger gap between farmers and non-farmers
Time will tell if Irish agriculture is on the right road to reducing emissions whilst protecting farmer livelihoods in the process. That is the delicate perfect outcome. It would be a shame if overly zealous policy was to outflank medium term positive results from the change in farming practice.
That would be to punish farmers who are scrambling on the back foot against the clock thanks, ironically, to policies imposed on them by predecessors of Timmermans and co.
The evolution of farming and rural life naturally leads to a bigger gap between farmers and non-farmers. Consequently fewer people know what goes on inside the farm gate.
So here is a suggestion: why don’t progressive young farmers invite the more social media savvy environmentalists – concerned about the impact of farming on the environment – onto their farms to show them what they are doing first hand? It would allow their visitors the opportunity to share their findings with their followers affording farmers a route to their loudest critics.