Those were the words of Seán Canney, Galway East Independent TD, who spoke following the appointment of Charlie McConalogue, to the position of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
He wished Deputy McConalogue the best of luck in his position, which, he added, is vital to the economy.
“Agriculture provides 173,000 jobs and accounts for 10% of this country’s exports. We can talk about how we arrived at today’s position, but my message to the new minister is that the industry is at a very critical juncture.”
“Farmers are worried. Young farmers are reluctant to take over the family farm. Farm incomes are disrupted and unsure. There are so many uncertainties right now.”
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will face challenges, the first of which is Brexit, the Galway East-based TD outlined.
“The Common Agricultural Policy will determine our farmers’ future. We also need an effective beef market task force to ensure a fair price for everybody involved in the industry.
“Our agri-food policies must ensure that we add value to all our products and get the greatest possible benefit for our producers. Our sheep farmers need solid markets.”
“The forestry licensing situation has been mentioned. I can tell the minister that with the way things are going, we will have no timber in this country by the end of the year. That must be tackled head-on.”
Farming, he added, must be supported in dealing with climate change. “We must protect the family farm and ensure that rules and regulations do not drive people away from agriculture.”
“We cannot continue to target farmers, who are best in class when it comes to carbon emissions in beef and sheep production.
“Many farming families are watching today with their fingers crossed, hoping that the new minister will be someone who understands the issues and will engage with the very hectic challenges that dominate agriculture.”
“He must hit the ground running. No lead-in time will be afforded to this Minister. Farmers cannot wait any longer.”
It is now time for this government and the new minister to demonstrate the leadership required to bring farmers together and to unite the industry so that it can prevail in the future.”
“As a rural deputy serving Galway East, which has many small family farms, I commit myself to engaging positively and constructively with him in the interests of agriculture in Ireland.” Canney concluded.