Fianna Fáil is to host a public meeting on issues relating to the agriculture and equine industry on 22nd March next. It has been organised by Kildare South TD Fiona O’Loughlin and will be addressed by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food Charlie McConalogue. The Chairman of the Kildare branch of the IFA Brian Rushe will also address the meeting.

The meeting will be held at Wall’s in Kilgowan at 7pm on March 22nd and is open to members of the public.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “Farmers across Kildare face an uncertain future as a result of volatility in the agriculture sector. Brexit has given rise to new challenges as farmers are facing the prospect of having to pay tariffs to export to the British market. This, coupled with the, volatility with Sterling, has made it difficult for farmers to forecast the return they are likely to earn for their produce.

“Poor weather conditions in recent years have also impacted on farmers, particularly those involved in the tillage sector. 2016 was a difficult year for tillage farmers who suffered an income reduction of up to €80m. Individual growers experienced crop losses running from 25% – 50%. Tillage farmers have been battling low grain prices, increased input costs and poor margins.

“It is vital that we support tillage farmers and the communities that rely on this sector. The challenge for the Government is to come forward with new policy measures to help tackle volatility in the agriculture sector. The Aid Scheme for Potato and Vegetable Crops was introduced in 2010 and was successful in providing vital assistance to farmers struggling to deal with price volatility. The Government should look to replicate this scheme to meet the current challenges. The €86m underspend in the Department of Agriculture’s 2016 budget shows that there is leeway to achieve this.

“We are also looking to hear from people involved in the Equine Industry given its importance to the local economy in Kildare. Ireland needs to secure its place as a global leader in the equine industry. The industry employs thousands directly and indirectly, drawing tourists from across the globe and contributing up to €6bn to the Irish economy. We must maximise the economic impact and job potential of this enormous resource and consolidate its position as a first in class leader in the global industry.

“The public meeting we are hosting is an opportunity for farmers to come forward and highlight the challenges they are currently facing. There will be an in-depth questions and answers session and farmers will have an opportunity to have an input into Fianna Fáil’s agriculture policy,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.