There has been a lukewarm reaction from farm bodies to the recently-published rural development plan Our Rural Future, with concerns raised that it lacks concrete details for the sector.
Among the key policy commitments identified for the agriculture sector is the preparation of the new agri food strategy to 2030. After several delays, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that plan will be published in the summer.
“It will set a high ambition for the sector in the years ahead, focusing on sustainability in its three forms: environmental, economic and social,” Minister McConalogue said.
“This will ensure that the agri food sector, encompassing agriculture, seafood and forestry, will continue to be the foundation for rural and coastal development.”
IFA president Tim Cullinan said much of what is contained in the report in relation to farming was already in train or referred to commitments that have already been made, but not yet implemented.
“It does acknowledge the central role played by the agri food sector outside of the main cities. For the sector to maintain its contribution, the Government has to pursue policies that allow it to grow,” Cullinan said.
He said the single biggest barrier to making rural areas more attractive places to live and work was broadband.
“Unless this is rectified, it remains very difficult for families in rural areas to function,” he said.
President of the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, said the plan was heavy on vague aspirations and light on any meaningful details.
McCormack said that those looking for detailed planning and commitment in this document would look in vain, with farming, forestry and food production the most obvious example.
“Everything about the way that farming is dealt with in the document screams managed downgrading of the sector. I stand to be corrected, but I was unable to see the words "commercial farming" mentioned even once,” the ICMSA president said.
“This does not bode well if the department charged with taking rural Ireland forward over the next five years fails to recognise and name the one sector that has proved repeatedly that it has the capacity to do just that.”