of our local Macra club I was always aware of the social
but also the huge personal development side that Macra
na Feirme contributed to society in communities across
the country. I recall my dad telling me stories of lads who
couldn't string two words together but, thanks to Macra
drama and debating, have gone on to be champions for
rural Ireland, many unrecognised but utterly important
people who shaped communities throughout Ireland.
Like most Macra members, you join for a specific purpose,
mine was sport. And the great thing about Macra was no
matter what you took part in there were always people at
your level. My real interest in Macra grew when President
Thomas Honner addressed us as students in Clonakilty
Agricultural College in 2003.
Around the same time dad and I were one of the first
families to engage in a new entrant parent partnership
(NEPP), a Macra initiative to encourage young farmers
into dairying. Regular phone calls and interaction from
National O ce over the following years ensured the
long-term success of the scheme. Macra over the decades
deserves huge credit for the foresight, the creativity and
the imagination to come up with programs, concepts and
initiatives like the NEPP.
As a senior department o cial said to me on many
occasions, "Macra is always solution focused, coming
forward with answers rather than problems". In recent
years, the solutions to many problems identified by young
farmers have been put in place. Young farmers had been
telling us that access to land and opportunities to upskill
were non-existent. To that end the Land Mobility Service
and Macra's Agricultural Skillnet have been developed with
the support of industry and DAFM, and these programs are
now delivering for young farmers ensuring in many cases
farms can be ran e ciently and sustainably. In another
initiative, the reintroduction of dairy and mart directors
courses has educated many young farmers on how
these businesses work and evolve and has encouraged
participation in coops.
Macra's perseverance on taxation issues has had a huge
financial impact on farms. Stamp duty, agricultural relief,
consolidation relief and stock relief have enabled young
farmers to take over family farms and not be massively
financially burdened by taxation commitments.
After an absence from European farming politics, Macra re-
joined CEJA with the support of past president Seamus O
Brien and IFAC. This opportunity allowed Macra to become
a leader of European young farmer policies. Seamus O
Brien, Laurance Fallon, Joe Healy, Sean Finan and myself
have all taken up CEJA leadership roles.
One of Macra's polices that was adopted by CEJA in
advance of the last CAP reform and accepted at EU
level by the Commission (Dacion Ciolos), the European
Parliament and the Council of Ministers (Simon Coveney)
was the Young Farmer top-up in Pillar 1 of the CAP. It was
the first ever acknowledgment that young farmers needed
Macra is regularly referred to for its sensible and practical
approach. Commissioner Hogan has sung the praises
of Macra throughout the EU for its work in land mobility
and, more recently, for Macra's constructive and proactive
submissions to the Oireachtas report on Climate Change.
Macra has experienced great challenges over the last 75
years and has overcome them all. With the leadership, the
spirit and determination that Macra na Feirme exudes, I
look forward with optimism and pride to the organisation
helping to shape our agricultural future.