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A call to action from
Macra President Thomas Duffy
"May you live in uninteresting times" is a supposed
Chinese blessing, implying of course that interesting
times are a curse. One certainty at present is that we are
not living in uninteresting times, whether that becomes
a blessing or curse remains for us to decide. However, it
was in similarly uncertain times that the founder of Macra
na Feirme, Stephen Cullinane, put forward his vision for
a new rural Ireland ruled by cooperation and common
good. Such a vision was and remains a challenge for all.
We labour in its shadow and must be guided by it, as the
world changes around us so drastically from Stephen's
time. This is a time of deep upheaval and a greater level
of uncertainty in both trade and relationship with Britain
than at any times since the end of the Troubles. The very
foundations of the European Union are being shaken,
from the Common Travel area to the Court of Justice,
foundations laid while battle scars healed and hopes for
lasting peace in Europe inspired men. Economics have tied
once warring peoples' futures together. Now our prosperity
lies in trade and nowhere knows that better than Ireland.
The causes for farmers protests outside meat factories in
recent times have not gone away and in many ways echo
the very reasons that inspired young farmers protests led by
Seamus Hayes in 1980, which brought 5,000 young people
to Kildare street and in fact many of the same causes that
inspired the NFA farmers march in 1966. Then, as now,
protests can only be the beginning, with the days ahead
proving whether agreements hard negotiated will lead to
real change. The only certainty being a continuation of
business as usual is no longer an option. As an industry we
must face challenges within and without, from Brexit to
changing consumer demands.
Across all looms the spectre of climate change. Agriculture
faces the challenges posed directly by global warming,
with the droughts of 2018 likely to only be a warmup
act of sorts, the increasingly violent storms from the
Atlantic predicted due to ice melt and coastal flooding,
all real and present dangers even if timelines may di er.
However, agriculture also faces a battle to retain its
good name against increasingly loud and well-funded if
poorly informed attacks. There is no running from these
challenges as the forces that motivated school children
to march in their thousands will be turned in time to all
aspects of society, the first may even be the grocery cart.
The reality is though Macra na Feirme is in the business of
change, that was what we were founded for, the vision of
a changed Ireland being the dream of Stephen Cullinane.
Through that vision, Macra was responsible for countless
works, none less than the founding of FBD, FRS and
more recently the Land Mobility Service. In crisis there is
opportunity for those who dare to seize it. From the horrors
of World War 2 grew the European Union and a time of
unprecedented peace the world had never seen before.
As consumers ask more questions, of not only where their
food comes from but how it was produced, opportunities
may arise for farmers.
The citizens and consumer of the future will not be as
they were in the past. All knowledge collected by human
beings now lies at their fingertips. They demand clear and
instant answers to their concerns and queries. They define
themselves by what they are not, as cashless or paperless,
as recyclers or zero waste, some may define themselves
even by what they do not eat. Macra understands these as
no other organisation can, our immediate changes already
include ridding ourselves of paper in routine tasks and this
year, for the first year, making our membership cards into
digital e-Cards.
However, Macra must ensure that this new generation,
this new citizen, can have their demands met while these
changes benefit farmers. Great possibilies now lie in these
new citizens, a possibility for farmers to connect through
new technology, to inform, to sell, to listen.
We may live in interesting times, we may find them di cult,
but through struggle great things are achieved. Hopefully
a greater world can be built for rural Ireland through these