Tipperary farm leaders welcome McConalogue appointment but warn of challenges ahead

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Charlie McConalogue Dail

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: new Minister for Agriculture

The Tipperary presidents of ICMSA and IFA have both welcomed the appointment of Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue as the new Minister for Agriculture.

Minister McConalogue, the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson Agriculture in the last Dáil, was given the role following the resignation of Dara Calleary.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said it would be difficult to overstate the number and importance of the challenges facing the incoming Minister.

“I’m afraid I don’t think there can be any kind of honeymoon period for Minister McConalogue.  We’ve lost two months as it is and I would suggest that the very first priority has to be introducing a degree of stability and the restoration of some momentum to several of the policies that appear to have drifted in the absence of a Minister.

"On issues like Brexit, CAP Post 2020, Mercusor and climate change, we need commitment, energy and direction and we need them all urgently. We look forward to meeting with him as soon as it can be arranged and we will try in every way to work constructively and come forward with solutions to the enormous problems that we all know must be faced and dealt with," said Mr McCormack.  

The Tipperary Town farmer said that events of the last two months had damaged the agriculture sector and there was a need to see a whole-of-Government approach from the Taoiseach downwards that would bring that focus and drive to the massive issues facing our multi-billion euro farm and food sector.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said they were looking forward to working with the new Minister to ensure that farmer concerns are taken seriously.

Given the upheaval in the Department since the Government took up office in June, IFA expected Minister McConalogue to get to grips with his portfolio quickly, said the Toomevara farmer.

“Michel Barnier’s assessment to the IIEA was very bleak and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is a real one. Farmers are in the frontline in terms of a damaging outcome and the Minister has to carry this message at Government and EU level,” he said.

Mr Cullinan said the CAP Budget, Brexit and the new Climate Bill were urgent and critical issues for the Government.

“The Minister has to be clear that farming is a commercial activity and that the economic sustainability of farmers is at the centre of the sustainability debate,” he said.

“This Minister has a huge task as farmers are frustrated with what they perceive to be fundamental unfairness in the food chain. They are being asked to do more and more for less return, as processors and retailers maximise their profits at the expense of farmers,” said Mr Cullinan.

“In this regard, the creation of the new Food Ombudsman will be vital. This new body must have the scope to regulate the full food chain and have real powers to ensure a fair share of the retail price gets back to farmers,” he said.

Meanwhile, ICSA president Edmond Phelan also welcomed the appointment, saying that the focus must be on delivering economic sustainability to cattle and sheep farmers.

“Agriculture has suffered over recent months without ministerial leadership. Minister McConalogue now needs to get to grips with the pressing issues and make up for lost time.   The key issues will be Brexit and the CAP reform, both of which will be critical in determining the future for Irish farming,” said Mr Phelan.