Following an invitation to Brussels from MEP Colm Markey, a group of eight Macra representatives went to visit the European Parliament on 7 December.

Not only were we attending the eighth European Congress of Young Farmers but we were also given the opportunity to meet with other MEPs and express the challenges faced by Irish young farmers.

We met French MEP Anne Sander, who is a member of the committee on agricultural and rural development.

We had a very positive discussion with her about the difficulties facing Irish young farmers in terms of land mobility, access to credit and the ever-changing legislation that makes long-term planning difficult.

She highlighted how our French counterparts are facing similar issues with land mobility and the speed of regulation changes. She spoke about the need to incorporate education and training for young farmers grants in France.

We highlighted the high rate of education among young farmers in Ireland, proving that there is high demand for entry to the industry, but a lack of available opportunities.

We also received an overview of some of the lobbying done by Liam McHale from the IFA.

He spoke about the points at which lobbying is of most benefit and the checks and balances in place to ensure policymakers hear the views of affected groups.

We discussed some of the upcoming legislative changes that will most affect young farmers in both Ireland and Europe.

The main focus of our trip to Brussels was attending the eighth Congress of Young Farmers.

Mayo county chair Robert Lally represented Macra and Irish farmers in the EU young farmers’ prize as part of the congress.

There were 16 competitors from across Europe and we watched a video overview of each project. MEP Colm Markey introduced Robert and praised not only Robert’s commitment to sustainable farming but also his dedication to Macra and rural youth in the west of Ireland.

Robert delivered an excellent presentation and demonstrated the dedication and commitment to the future seen among Irish young farmers.

The range of projects that were shown was very enlightening. Issues ranged from water quality and availability, to educational awareness and environmental regeneration across sectors such as beef production, aquaculture, horticulture and many more.

The trip gave us an opportunity to see the challenges faced, not only in other countries, but also sectors that are not as prevalent in Ireland. We would like to thank MEP Colm Markey for facilitating this opportunity.