The engineer, from a beef and dairy farming family in Dunamore, Co Cork, said that while 30-35% of Macra members are farmers, all members are “looking out for the betterment of rural Ireland”.
His intention is to build up the organisation’s farmer membership: “I would be looking to review all of our activities at a local level and hopefully drive on all of the young farmer discussion groups in every county, so that we can get them more active, and by being more active we’ll draw in more young farmers,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal.
This will in turn feed more farmers’ views into the organisation’s policies and give its lobbying efforts more strength, he said.
But he also recognised that many members are not full-time farmers, and said Macra’s role is to advocate for better opportunities in rural areas in general – including for farmers looking for part-time employment or pursuing a career while their parents occupy the family farm. This includes lobbying for “infrastructure such as broadband that will allow employment to be rolled out to the regions and rural communities so that people can stay in their local area as much as possible,” Healy said.
Listen to the full interview with James Healy in our podcast below:
Following the completion of the Land Mobility Service’s three-year pilot phase, he confirmed that Macra was preparing to expand the programme nationwide, with support from all co-ops and the Department of Agriculture. “We have visited most of the co-ops at this stage and we’d be hoping to have the Is dotted and the Ts crossed in the coming months so that we can really get going with it,” he said.
Following the IFA pay scandal in 2015 and the reluctance by some farmers to pay the levies funding farming organisations, Healy said the system should be retained but could be improved. “The Con Lucey report said that levies are the fairest way of farmers supporting the farmers’ organisations,” he said. “We’re only interested in the dairy levy and what would be important for us is that we can work with the IFA to find a structure of having those levies in place that is fair to all, that is transparent, but that support is also there for all the organisations involved.”