Ag. Minister bemoans 'toxicity of relations' between farmers and beef industry

Gina Fox

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Gina Fox

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gina.fox@alphanewspapers.co.uk

THE “toxicity of relations” between the beef industry and the farming community cannot continue the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Michael Creed declared at the official opening of Tullamore Show and the FBD National Livestock Show on Sunday afternoon last.

Saying that the onus was on the beef industry to enter dialogue with farmers, Minister Creed, in a reference to the Beef Plan protests, acknowledged that it had been a difficult number of weeks for the farming community.

”Good corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, demands that they reach out, demands that they negotiate, demands that they dialogue and converse with what are their critical partners in a very significant industry,” stressed the Minister.

Minister Creed, who performed the official opening of the show, also hit out at commentators in the media who criticise the agricultural sector’s efforts on climate change.

He called on them to acknowledge the strides made so far by the sector to become more sustainable and to avoid generating a reaction from “relentless negative commentary”.

Officially welcoming the huge crowds to the Butterfield Estate, the Chairperson of Tullamore Show, Brenda Kiernan said people had travelled from all corners of Ireland and from further afield for the event.

”This show is such a vast undertaking,” said Ms Kiernan who outlined that the success of the event was the result of a “collective endeavour”.

Speaking at the outset of proceedings, Show Operations Manager and Secretary, Freda Kinnarney, who performed the role of Master of Ceremonies, extended a special welcome to the guests assembled on the platform for the formalities.

They included the Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, Show Chairperson, Brenda Kiernan, Jim Harrison of the Irish Shows Association, local Dail Deputies Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Carol Nolan and Barry Cowen, Cllr Peter Ormond, Cathaoirleach, Offaly County Council, Annamarie Delaney, CEO, Offaly County Council, Cllr Declan Harvey, Cllr Neil Feighery, Cllr Danny Owens, Fr Joe Gallagher, Fr Martin Carley, Canon David Hutton Bury, Rev. Yvonne Hutchinson, Pat McCormack, President of the ICMSA and the Australian Ambassador, Richard Andrews.

Ms Kinnarney also acknowledged the presence of the Garda Band and thanked Superintendent John Mullarkey and Chief Superintendent John Scanlon for securing their presence.

Formally welcoming the thousands of spectators and exhibitors to the show, Brenda Kiernan thanked the Butterfield family for providing what she termed a “wonderful site.”

She said that a temporary village had been erected on the site and paid tribute to the event’s main sponsors, FBD Insurance and the hundreds of businesses which supported the event.

She also thanked Offaly County Council, the Gardai and other state agencies for ensuring that the show was the biggest one day event of its kind in Ireland if not in the whole of Europe.

”This is a fun-filled family day that represents the heartbeat of rural Ireland,” stressed Ms Kiernan pointing to the wide variety of attractions at the show catering for virtually every interest.

Jim Harrison, of the Irish Shows Association, stressed the importance of the family farm to Ireland and said the industry was faced with a myriad of problems including Brexit, the Mercosur trade deal and beef prices.

John Cahalan, Chief Commercial Officer with FBD, said the show was a reminder of the importance of agriculture to Ireland, both economically and socially.

”It is still our biggest indigenous industry,” he stressed.

Adding that supporting local communities was very important to FBD, Mr Cahalan indicated that the firm’s relationship with Tullamore Show would continue long into the future.

Minister Michael Creed paid tribute to the show executive and volunteers for their hard work in ensuring that the event was a huge success each year.

”When we leave the show this afternoon the preparations for next year’s event start,” he outlined.

Turning his attention to Brexit, the Minister said everyone hoped that the UK departed the European Union in an “orderly fashion.”

He outlined that the Government had prepared assiduously and negotiated with the agricultural community who would be badly affected due to the volume of trade between Ireland and the UK.

”We are ready to step in and support the agri-sector for what could be a severe shock,” promised the Cork based T.D.

Turning his attention to the Beef Plan protests and the forthcoming talks between farmers and the beef industry, Minister Creed said the current “toxicity of relations” could not continue and meat processors must change this.

”It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for the farming community. I do acknowledge in the context of the Beef Plan the elevation that they have given to a difficulty in the beef industry.

”Tomorrow we sit down around the table as stakeholders – all farm organisations, the relevant state agencies and the Beef Plan Movement, under independent chairmanship to try and chart a way forward.

”Good corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, demands that they reach out, demands that they negotiate, demands that they dialogue and converse with what are their critical partners in a very significant industry.”

The Minister stressed that the current situation cannot continue as “business as usual”, adding that the sector must change in the way that conversation happens.

Minister Creed said that, if anything is achieved out of the talks, “one of the critical things that we need to deliver is change in the context of the relationship between the meat industry and farming bodies – but also the meat industry and individual farmers”.

”We need that reach-out; we need it at individual company level; we need it at individual plant level, so that individual farmers know the context in which we trade and understand what is happening in an industry that they are a critical component.

”We cannot have a global beef industry reaching out to international markets all over the world without primary producers.

”And it is that collaborative approach that I think is part of a new infrastructure that needs to come out of that conversation that will commence tomorrow. And I would like to acknowledge every party in bringing that about,” outlined the Minister.

Minister Creed also called on commentators criticising the agricultural sector’s efforts on climate change to acknowledge the strides made so far by the sector to become more sustainable and avoid generating a reaction from “relentless negative commentary”.

Stressed the Minister: ” I’d like to make a point very briefly about climate . . . we do acknowledge that we have a role to play as an industry and as a community and as farming families; we know that each and every one of us have changes to make. But the relentless negative commentary is in danger of generating an adverse reaction.

”And I would say to the commentators, to the keyboard warriors and to the media, that this is an industry that globally is a leader in terms of its sustainability.

”We are up there, as good as many and better than most – and we acknowledge that we are required to change

”We can do more and we will do more in that regard – but we do need recognition for what it is that we have achieved already – in many respects as global leaders in what we do.

”Whilst we’re not looking for a free pass, we do acknowledge that we have more to do – but so does every individual of the state and citizen of the globe in the context of meeting the challenge of our times to pass on the earth to the next generation in the best state that we possibly can.

”We are contributing significantly, and we deserve recognition for that, while acknowledging that we have more to do,” stressed Minister Creed.

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