James Healy, a suckler farmer from Donomore in Co. Cork, recently was announced as Macra President.
Managing Editor of ThatsFarming, John Connell, spoke with James discussing topics such as climate change and the need for young farmers in the industry.
Healy first spoke of the want and need from Macra for more young farmers and farmers in general to join the organisation. This he said is one of his main aims for the two years of his presidency.
"There is no reason why any young farmer in the country shouldn't be a member of Macra. That's my aim, to get as large of a chunk of these as possible into the organisation", he said.
He spoke of the importance of getting these young people to enter the agricultural industry as a profession, saying that an estimated 6,000 people will be needed in dairy alone, just to meet the Foodwise 2020 goals in place.
"6,000 young farmers, particularly in dairy, are required to ensure we meet foodwise targets set for 2020", said James.
The major downfall is, Healy said, parents encouraging younger people to "stay away" from the sector, as it's "hard work and a hard life".
He said another problem is all the news coverage surrounding decreased milk prices as well as beef and other produce. This he says is discouraging youth from making the leap, as they don't see it as a viable, consistent job.
"With lower beef and milk prices in the news, If that's all young farmers see, they are not going to see it as a viable career path", Healy stated.
He then said there is a real need to broadcast the positives of the industry to a broader audience, and to show the positives of having a career as a farmer. These positives, he said, included "The lifestyle and the flexibility it offers".
He added that another of his prime goals is the education of these younger generations. He, during his presidency, hopes to train these young farmers on how to operate more safely and indeed improve their own farm practices through farm walks and courses.
Healy said there is a "huge problem" with attracting youth into the industry, and called for relief services to be set up to help make farming a more family friendly career. He again stressed the importance of engaging with these young farmers at ground level.
"It is very important to be engaging with these young farmers at a ground level", said James.
When asked by editor John Connell about the potential of family farms becoming a thing of the past and mega farms becoming more common, due to labour shortages expected to increase in the coming years, Healy responded in agreement.
"That's the way it feels to me. The only conclusion you can draw is that if we don't get these people into farming, then that's the direction we have to go", James Healy stated.
The topic then moved to climate change, where Healy was questioned about climate change and the impact it will have on farming. Healy said, that he thought, farming is moving more towards science and technology.
"It is something our agriculture affairs committee have identified, and we are looking at maybe putting together and environmental policy", he stated.
He said this policy will look at the climate change issues as a whole and research and discuss how they will address it as an organisation. He pointed to Moorepark, and the technological advances been made there as of late as an example of what he hopes for the future.
"From a dairy point of view, Moorepark have been working hard to address the issues on this. Maybe beef should be working harder on it" ,he said.
He said beef should be having animals on their farms for less time and farmers should be making the most of the number one asset farmers have, grass. Healy said for the industry to make these advances as a unit, that broadband is needed in rural areas.
"If we're going to make the most of all this technology coming, then we're going to need the ability to do it...we're going to require broadband" he said.
Healy also discussed the national reserve, CAP agreements and a range of other topics.
To hear the full interview, listen to our podcast here.