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policy objective and Eir will have to be involved in that
plan. For entrepreneurial farmers and rural dwellers in
general the availability of fast and affordable broadband
is hugely important. While Eir pulled out of the tendering
process, the fact that it owns the infrastructure the poles
means it will have to be involved in the broadband plan
in one way or another. At this stage broadband availability
is playing catch-up on demand and use. Most farms in the
country are now either accessing or attempting to access
broadband services to carry out their business, whether
that's registering calves, applying for EU payments or
using on-line banking facilities. Without good broadband
services, rural households, businesses and farms will be
left behind. It really is that critical."
An exciting career
Paddy Browne's decision to pursue a career in agriculture
was pragmatic: "I had a natural interest in agriculture.
There wasn't an opportunity to farm so I completed an
agriculture degree in UCD instead with never a regret
since. I have been involved in some very exciting times in
Irish agriculture."
During his 40-year career with Teagasc Paddy held many
of the senior posts in the organisation: "I was lucky in
having five distinct jobs in my time with Teagasc. That
made it constantly stimulating and challenging. I was
involved at various times in the research, educational
and advisory services. After my initial time as an advisor
I joined Michael Galvin at Kildalton as his Assistant
Regional Director. That role covered all three of Teagasc's
remits under Advisory, Research and Education. The first
joint industry programme was developed at that time with
Avonmore. At the same time the initial drive to develop
discussion groups was being undertaken with Matt Ryan
heavily involved along with two New Zealanders working
with us. Together with Avonmore we jointly employed
advisors and that was innovative because before that both
Teagasc and Avonmore had their own advisory services
with little cooperation and some competition between
them. The Discussion Group model was ground-breaking
because it moved from the expert advisor imparting
information to farmers themselves driving the agenda."
Upgrading education
The Tullowman's spell as Head of Education was
significant for a number of reasons: "The national
accreditation of our educational programmes was very
important. They were recognised by FETAC and we
began working with the Institutes of Technology to
gain involvement in Higher Education. Both David O'
Connor and Eamon Tully had laid the groundwork for
those initiatives. That got us away from the previous
`ghettoisation' of agricultural education and brought it
into the mainstream system.
As Head of Education, Paddy Browne oversaw the closure
of many of the private agricultural colleges: "Those private
colleges that wanted to close did so and we still have
a private input in the agricultural college sector. The
rationalisation programme did allow for the development
of more critical mass. Having a Kildalton or a Clonakilty
offers greater opportunities in terms of course diversity
and they can work closely with the advisory and specialist
Work placement was a contentious issue as Paddy
confirms: "Making placement compulsory was a
significant development. In hindsight most graduates
would say that one of their most positive experiences
in agricultural education was the placement segment.
It brought many young people out of their home-based
cocoon and gave them an insight into the farm workplace
and social interaction that they wouldn't have experienced
Head of crops
Before his sojourn in Education, Paddy Browne was Head
of Crops at Teagasc: "My job was to lead the advisory and
specialist personnel and work closely with the research
side. It was an exciting time when crop yields were
increasing spectacularly. The fungicides necessary to
protect those high yield crops were also being developed.
The biannual Open Day at Oakpark is indicative of the
success of Teagasc's crops programme. There has always
been a very positive response from farmers towards the
research, the trial plots and the stream of advice that
comes out of Oakpark and Johnstown."
The big challenges
Paddy Browne insists that Irish agriculture is on a
very positive trajectory: "I'm fully behind further dairy
expansion. We do need a balance, including a viable tillage
sector to fill the role of indigenous supplier of feed and
straw to the livestock and mushroom sectors and grain
for the brewing and distilling industries. The provision of
Irish produced rations will be important in the future. The
other issues of land use, the environment and forestry also
need to be considered. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
and water quality are amongst the biggest challenges. If
we don't measure up on both of those we will lose the
Nitrates Derogation and that would stop dairy expansion
in its tracks. One remedy is to somewhat reduce the
suckler herd. I wouldn't want to see a significant
reduction but we could maintain the current beef output
by increasing the supply of beef-type calves from the dairy
herd. From a rural development perspective a suckler
herd is needed, alongside an increase in forestry planting.
Forestry has to be an integral part of meeting our emission
reduction targets. The current planting of 6,000 hectares
needs to double, at least."
Underutilised land base
Paddy Browne is critical of the underdeveloped potential
of Irish farmland: "There's a lot of underutilised and
underproductive land so the reality is that there is plenty
of opportunity to expand dairy, beef, tillage and forestry,
if even a proportion of that land was brought up to its
productive capacity. While every extra ruminant adds
to the volume of GHGs, a scientist will look at the GHG
output per tonne of food produced. That leads to two
realisations. The world has to be fed and it should be
fed from those regions that are the most efficient food
producers from an emissions perspective. Because of its
grassland base Ireland is a very efficient food producer."
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