The immense changes in agriculture and in diary farming in particular over the last 50 years were highlighted by Mairead McGuinness, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the IHFA, Irish Holstein Friesian Association in Kilnard Hotel, Laois on Thursday.
She said the RTE archives capture the scenes well in the series Telefis Feirme which instructed farmers on new methods of increasing productivity.
“In the mid 1960s the colour of our dairy cattle changed from the red and white short horns to the black and whites and at the forefront of this development was the IFBA, which subsequently grew into the IHFA today.”
She said the members of the association have built up the breed and individual herds to a very high level, winning recognition for the quality of our cattle on the EU and world stage at various breed shows.
“The club structure works in a remarkable way enabling members to share knowledge and experiences and learn from each other – a well tested forerunner to today’s discussion groups among farmers which are an effective and important way of transferring knowledge.
“In those 50 years Ireland moved from protectionism to more open trading with our neighbours and opened successful negotiations on membership of what is now the European Union.”
She said the CAP replaced many national policies and measures supporting agriculture. “Today it is challenged to meet the difficulties posed by intense volatility on agriculture markets. Dairy farmers are finding it difficult to plan and control their businesses because of the threat of volatility and we must look to all available support measures to address these concerns,” she said.
“We also need to broaden the conversation about sustainable farming and food production beyond the EU borders as global issues impact on Irish farms directly through market price movements.”
Ms McGuinness congratulated the current President of the IHFA Peter Ging and chairman Richard Whelan on the success of the association.
“The association has grown and prospered over the last 50 years because of the passion of its members for their chosen cattle breed and their incredible knowledge of their stock.
“It’s good to know that the passion and knowledge is being transferred to the next generation through clubs and shows around the country,” she added.
Ms. McGuinness said she was deeply saddened by the recent tragedy with the loss of a young life on an Irish farm, expressing her condolences to all who have been affected by this accident. And she urged farm families to prioritise safety above all else.