Midlands Green Party Senator wants farmers funded to grow food crops

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Midlands Green Party Senator wants farmers funded to grow food crops

Green Party Senator Pippa Hackett from Geashill.

Irish farmers should be paid to start growing more food crops to prevent shortages in times of crisis like the Covid-19 says an Offaly Green Party Senator.

Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett runs her own farm near Geashill in Co Offaly, and recently ran for election for the Laois Offaly constituency.

“We are in a crisis situation, and who knows what lies ahead. Most of the food many of us put on our plates is imported, and these long supply chains have many links that can be broken. It is really is the time to start investing in, and supporting local food production. The government must ensure significant supports are put in place to support farmers, growers and communities to provide more of the food we all rely on every day," she said today Tuesday March 24.

She suggests a fund to grow crops like wheat, potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes which are mostly imported to Ireland.

“As part of its contingency plans, we are calling on the Government and farm organisations to support the development of a “local food stimulus fund” to kick start this process, and to support the production of many of those imported foods we rely so heavily on. This fund should support farmers and growers, big and small, to play their part in feeding our fellow citizens."

"So instead of importing wheat for bread, lets support our farmers to grow it here. We import most of our potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes – this is the sort of nonsense that needs to change. It is still early enough in the year to plant crops, and this is exactly what we should be doing. Let’s start feeding ourselves properly, with domestically produced food from our own farmers and growers. Not only will we secure a food supply, we will create new jobs, and that is one thing for certain that people will need in a post-Covid world.”

“A crisis like this stresses every aspect of our society, and highlights very quickly where weaknesses lie, be that health, education, business or finance.  Farmers are no strangers to dealing with crises, and have shown great resilience in dealing with major difficulties, whether it is bad weather, absence of fodder for their animals, or economic downturn. However, this crisis is different, as there is no end in sight, and the aftermath is still unknown.   

She noted the loss of income to beef farmers with the temporary closure of chains like McDonald's.

“The closure of restaurants, particularly fast food outlets, will have an immediate effect on the demand for Irish beef. We already have the expected cuts to the CAP budget in light of Brexit, and with the costs of dealing with the coronavirus crisis increasing all the time, the overall availability of funds within EU budget is likely to suffer further. This is not about scaremongering, it is about making the strong and informed decisions now, to secure the future of the farming sector. 

 “As part of a number of actions, we are calling on Minister Creed to issue BPS payments and any Rural Development Fund supports as early as possible this year, so farmers can use this money to plan and support themselves in the short and medium term. This is particularly applicable to part-farmers who have lost an off-farm income," she said.

Pippa Hackett PhD BSc is Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food, Forestry, Heritage & Animal Welfare