“Irish farming is facing into a very challenging year  as the costs of doing business threatens to wipe out some modest gains in 2021.”
That is according to IFA president, Tim Cullinan, who warned that “steep” increases in feed, energy and fertiliser prices could overwhelm some family farms.
According to the CSO, input costs rose by 15% in 2021, and the farm leader stated that signs for 2022 are “hugely concerning”.
Farming in 2022
Cullinan said he hoped the new year would bring “a more mature and positive” discussion on climate action.
“As farmers, we continue to produce high-quality, safe and nutritious food,” he remarked.
“While a vocal minority has been attempting to vilify farmers, the vast majority of people support Irish farming and are proud of our countryside and the food produced by Irish farmers.”
Overall, he said farm families are fearful that their incomes are being sacrificed without a clear plan for the sector at farm level.
He called for “real” engagement with the government to devise a properly-funded Climate Plan. Cullinan believes the plan must strike the “right balance” between environmental, economic and social sustainability. “This will be our focus in 2022,” he said.
He said that policymakers here and in Brussels must recognise that while farmers are willing to undertake more environmental actions, their incomes must be protected.
He pointed to the Irish CAP Strategic Plan, which Cabinet signed off on and the DAFM sent to Brussels.
“The plan, like almost all of their policies, will put more costs on productive farmers, while their supports are being undermined by policy decisions and inflation.”
“Policymakers are not putting sufficient value on food production. Our retailers continue to undermine the value of our produce by using it as a loss leader.”
“This is not sustainable. I believe those in power will come to regret this short-sighted move, which encourages farmers to produce less.”
He stated that the world’s global population is increasing, and the world will need more food, not less.
Cullinan said Minister McConalogue must honour his commitment to bringing in primary legislation for a food regulator to ensure farmers get a fair price for their produce.
Covid-19 and farm safety
Cullinan said the surge in Covid cases was a concern for the sector.
In addition to the implications for human health, he stated that it also poses a challenge for the efficient functioning of the sector.
“Our farmers, and those working in the food sector, have worked hard to keep the food chain operating. However, everybody will be very stretched as case numbers soar due to the Omicron variant,” he said.
“It’s important that everybody heeds the public health advice and stays safe in the coming weeks,” he said.
Concluding, he said 2021 also saw a reduction in the number of farm fatalities, “although it is still far too high”.
“We need to continue to do all we can to ensure there’s an improvement in 2022,” he concluded.