Irish farmers have become well used to the EU shaping just about every aspect of our farming practice. We are dependent on the CAP for our income and have to do what it takes to ensure we get the payment. It is the same with production. The EU flirts with giving beef import quotas that operate different production regimes yet continues the imposition of a ban on growth-promoting hormones in Europe that was called out by the WTO in 2005 because there was no scientific reason for the ban. There was a near miss earlier this year with the threat of the weedkiller Roundup being banned though its licence was eventually extended to the end of 2017.

The debate to watch out for in the next few years is how antibiotics are used as an animal medicine and the growing risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This occurs when antibiotics being used to treat human illnesses are no longer effective because of a build-up of immunity in the human population. One cause of this is an overuse of antibiotics by the population but the other involves farmers and use in livestock. Antibiotics are used by the veterinary profession to treat infection in much the same way as in the human population and there are specific withdrawal periods that have to be complied with. In the intensive pork and poultry sectors, where the pigs and birds are at much greater risk of infection because of their closed-in environment, antibiotics have been used in a precautionary manner to prevent infection developing.