At the ICOS conference this week, Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers gave his keynote address which struck cords with farmers of all nationalities. He noted his agricultural past with his father, who farmed for a living, and explained the ‘importance of co-operations’ and how ‘the family farm was the first consumer-controlled factory’.
Speaking about Ireland’s current situation, he says that we ‘have not lost sight of what co-ops are all about. Yes, we need to make profits, but just as importantly we need to look after one another and our communities.’
In an interview with That’s Farming after his speech, Vickers described how the CETA deal, which took years of negotiation, is supposed to be a ‘world class deal’. He said that it will eliminate duties and taxes on Irish dairy products such as cheese, and he says it will benefit Irish agriculture.
When questioned about the opposition of CETA by MEPs, Ambassador Vickers reiterated the positives he saw with the deal, adding that Brexit should be much more of a concern than CETA. He said that the main focus of CETA is the value of citizens, with a focus on food regulations and safety. They are the ‘cornerstones of the deal’.
During the ambassador’s keynote address, he commended former ICOS CEO Seamus O’Donohoe, who stated that ‘too many co-operative members take the existence of their co-op for granted’.
"Central to any co-op is first and foremost the member, the co-op employees, the manager and the directors at the board of directors. They must be equally valued and work together as a team in mutual respect, their interests must be of their co-op and their co-op’s priorities, and not their own.
"Their decisions must be forwarded upon the good of their co-op, not their own. Ensuring their co-op’s success will ensure their own success and well-being. Members must grasp that at the root of a co-operative is self help, sharing a responsibility with and for other members," explained Vickers.
He explained how he believes that the family is truly the first and most important co-op: “Protect your home; make sure metaphorically it does not burn down.”
The final statement of his speech was a quote from his father, who dealt with the destruction of his own dairy with grace. The dairy was burned down in a fire, but the next day, Vickers’ father put up a sign ‘which may metaphorically apply to you [Irish farmers] and your co-ops’:
“Let us go forward, men of valour, forgetting the past, to build a new, so that we can fulfil the objective of this co-op.”
Photo sourced from Canada in Ireland's Twitter profile.
You can view his interview with That's Farming here:
You'll also find his full speech here: