It’s normal to feel stressed with all the outside pressures that are influencing attitudes towards agriculture.
We might not realise it but what other people think of us is important for our sense of worth. We value our reputation as food producers and upstanding members of society.
Farmers have always been a respected cohort in the community.
Now suddenly fingers are being pointed in our direction. Unfortunately, this is going to continue until we can work out how we are going to do what we have to do without actually going out of business.
Focusing on the countries that we believe don’t – such as China, Russia and India – is negative and defeatist
We must explain it to people outside of farming too. Responding to climate change or trying to slow down the warming of the planet is a new journey for everyone across the world. Some take it seriously, others don’t. Focusing on the countries that we believe don’t – such as China, Russia and India – is negative and defeatist.
These mornings, I don’t need an alarm to wake up. Tension does that for me. The narrative around our livelihoods has become strained and farmers are feeling the pressure.
It represents upheaval in our homes as we grapple with living differently to save our planet
Some people understand, others do not. Are you as mesmerised as I am about what faces our children and especially our grandchildren that are and will be farming? What does the Climate Action Bill mean for farmers? It means cuts in our incomes. It means changes in our farming practices. Most of the changes will cost. It represents upheaval in our homes as we grapple with living differently to save our planet. In our case we are committed dairy farmers, full of passion for what we do.
Year on year we are better farmers using science to grow more grass and producing better quality milk and stock while looking after the environment that is our farm. We enjoy our profession.
Cuts and negative attitude
Let’s examine why exactly we are stressed. Sometimes understanding what is going on within our psychological selves helps us to cope. The nub of the issue is we are planning for a drop in our incomes.
Already we know that the huge changes to farmers’ Basic Farm Payments will deliver a body blow. My husband Tim has been doing the figures fastidiously here. The results are not pretty, indicating a drop of between 38% and 41%.
I find it hard to swallow the negative attitude toward farming that is largely driven by social media platforms
Yes, some of this drop will be recovered through various schemes. The cut will still be significant and that’s before any climate action measures are quantified.
I find it hard to swallow the negative attitude toward farming that is largely driven by social media platforms. This adds to the stress and we feel less valued. I don’t like the narrative around animal welfare.
In the climate change discussion; the catch all explanation often includes the phrase “and improved animal welfare!” My blood boils every time I hear it as it tells a public that farmers have not been concerned with animal welfare. Grass-fed animals are extremely content and happy.
Our animals are happy and well looked after
On our farm, I often watch the cows as they enter a new paddock of grass. The heads go down and their tongues curl and gather the luscious grass. They walk with determination. The noise of tearing and crunching reminds me of finger licking barbecued ribs! Our animals are happy and well looked after.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin says that the Government will partner with farmers to work the climate action measures out. A Just Commission is going to be set up. Farmers will need to have strong representation on this commission so that it will in fact be just.
A few deep breaths are required
The fact that the Climate Action Plan is now published reduces the stress a little. Right now, we are confused and unclear about our way forward. We don’t have a lot of answers. Of course it is stressful. So, it’s back to the drawing board for farming families to work out the way forward. We will need a lot of support across all sectors to manage this.
I’ve asked the question before. It’s now more relevant that ever; how does one eat this elephant? The answer is; a little bit at a time! A few deep breaths are required along with sitting down and devising a plan for the farm, the farmyard and the farmhouse on how the climate action bill can be negotiated short term, medium term and long term. Positive planning and actions will go a long way in reducing the stress felt by all involved.