Friday was a day of celebration at Mountbellew Agricultural College when MEP for Galway and first Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, presented certificates to students who have undertaken full, part-time and distance learning courses at the college.
The MEP said it was heartening to see so many studying at various levels of agriculture.
“In recent years we have seen something of a renewal in agriculture and this is a really positive development. Here in Mounbellew over 240 students have completed the various courses of study.
“The future is all about life-long learning, embracing science and adapting to the more rapid pace of change that science is presenting to the world,” she said.
“The new generation of farmers need to have a very wide base of knowledge and be geared towards expanding and building on that knowledge throughout their careers in agriculture,” she said.
“In the past we focused on production agriculture. In more recent times the environment has been and will continue to be the focus, the future is all about sustainable, competitive production.”
And she said a good education should primarily equip the student – whatever the age – with an enquiring mind, so that they are able to read, to analyse, to question and challenge, “thereby contributing fully to their chosen and very valuable career – valuable for themselves, their communities, and the wider world.”
Congratulating the students she said: “In many ways we’re going back to the future in agriculture.”
Addressing the issue of the future of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and the current debate about potential cuts to the budget arising from Brexit Ms McGuinness said for farmers the most important issue for the future is securing a strong budget for agriculture.
“There are calls for more spending on migration and security at EU level but we need to convince our colleagues in the EU that new policies require new money.
“In agriculture itself there are new demands to be met, including climate action, so ensuring there are no cuts to the budget is absolutely critical,” she said.
On Friday students were presented with a range of qualifications:
- Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Drystock Management)
- Level 6 Certificate in Farm Administration (Green Cert)
- Level 6 Distance Education Certificate in Farm Administration
- Level 6 Part-Time Education Certificate in Farm Administration