How important the beef industry was to Kerry and the risk to the industry with the proposed Mercosur deal dominated farmer questions to special guest, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, at the virtual Kerry IFA annual general meeting (AGM) on Tuesday.
An Tánaiste got numerous questions on the European Mercosur deal and how the EU on one hand were asking and paying European farmers to go green, while on the other hand doing deals with South American countries where rainforests were being destroyed to grow feed.
Varadkar said that, while the deal was currently stalled and that there was not much to be gained for Ireland, he felt Ireland needed to box clever and stay close to France to get the best outcome.
I’d like to meet up with the IFA to discuss the contradictions of the deal
IFA president Tim Cullinan reinforced the fact that the EU were speaking with a “forked tongue” on Mercosur and while short lines of transport from farm to fork might work in Poland they wouldn’t in Ireland.
After repeated questions on the Mercosur deal Varadkar said: “Look, I think the leaders are not going to meet again on this before May and I think I’d like to meet up with the IFA to discuss the contradictions of the deal and go through the issues.”
Brexit red tape
The upcoming Brexit challenges from 1 April 2021 in terms of new animal health and food movement restrictions were highlighted.
Varadkar said there will be a tenfold increase in the health certs required and that was important to allow food and agri produce to continue moving.
Later in the meeting, Minister Martin Heydon talked about the requirement for 130 to 140 more vets needed urgently in the Department of Agriculture so it was a difficult situation.
Varadkar talked about the importance of keeping the nitrate derogation for Ireland and that it was “integral” for the system of farming we do in Ireland.
An Tánaiste addressed the AGM with local deputy Brendan Griffin and Minister Martin Heydon from Kildare.
There were numerous calls for recognition that Kerry was very different to other parts of the country
While extoling his farming roots in west Waterford at the outset, he said he had never been asked to speak to Kerry farmers and was not going to pretend to be an expert in all things farming.
Following a short presentation, he listened to queries from the farmers and answered questions as much as possible.
There were numerous calls for recognition that Kerry was very different to other parts of the country given the location of farms and issues like broadband and the three crop rule were highlighted as needing adjustment to fit into Kerry.
On a lighter note towards the end of his engagement with the farmers An Tánaiste was asked about road access and the Macroom and Adare bypass.
Just before he signed off he said: “The Macroom bypass will be 2024 and Adare has to go through planning, but we’d like to get it done before the Ryder Cup.”
Chair Pat O’Driscoll thanked An Tánaiste for attending and said while he didn’t bring any gift to the meeting, his engagement was appreciated.
As he signed off, An Tánaiste offered a virtual hug, but the chair had moved on.