Ireland’s young farmers are the future of the industry. It’s a phrase I get tired of saying its true of course but so many of the powers that be don’t seem to think that way.
The McCabe Gardai whistleblower scandal has illustrated once again that if you want anything to change in Ireland you have to scream and shout for it and like the whistleblower case so many good people often get abused and thrown about the inept government system we have in this country.
You might think it odd that I bring in the sex abuse allegation scandal in relation to young farmers but the principle is the same why only last week we learned that hundreds of young farmers were facing the possibility of an axed Green Cert course in North West. The situation was going to remain like that only for local TD’s took up the cause of the young farmers and started asking questions in the Dail.
Then low and behold when noise was made 15 additional teacher positions were created to help with the backlog in the North West.
It’s a sad reality but he who shouts loudest gets heard in this country.
Thousands of our young farmers wait to complete their Green Cert and with every passing day we are creating another generation of old young farmers and forgotten farmers. They won’t be eligible for many grants through no fault of their own but through the fault of a system that isn’t working for them.
The government’s published guideline to the Young Farmers Scheme clearly states that farmers must have completed a Green Cert / FETAC Level 6 course to be eligible for the grants provided.
The problem is that in 2016, the deadline for having it completed was bumped up to May 2016, causing a huge surge in applications, waiting-lists of those wanting to do the Cert with Teagasc, and thousands being frozen out of the scheme as a result.
It’s a shame to think about when the very food security of this nation and the future of the industry is at stake the Department and government bodies cannot deliver the services needed for our next generation.
The issue of labour shortages in the agriculture sector is a time bomb waiting to hit Ireland. Why only last week at the FTMTA leading machinery companies explained to me the dilemma they are facing with less applicants coming into the industry and fewer people being shown that farming and farm services is a viable career choice.
The Irish head of a well known international machinery brand said that he is worried about the future of the sector explaining that it was no good having these amazing machines for sale if there’s no one to use them.
As our farming population ages the next 20 years will be a crucial time for Irish farming. It’s a sad reality but the family farm is changing, farms are getting bigger and operated by less people but by hampering the efforts of the next generation of farmers now we are hampering this next phase in Irish farming. We are also pushing away would be farmers and food providers from the industry at a time when we need to attract and keep them. These young men and women frustrated by the system are going into other industries where at least the rules and guidelines run clear.
The Green Cert is but the straw on the camels back but if the recent weeks of Government ineptitude have shown us anything it’s that young farmers are not a priority. Short term thinking creates long term problems and boy have we got one major headache coming up if the Department and its bodies don’t get their act together.
The very future of rural Ireland hangs in the balance. The time for sitting on the fence is over. Ireland’s young farmers deserve better.