As my term comes to a close, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to look back at the progress made and the hard work put in by all in the organisation. Two years ago the challenges facing Macra na Feirme were rooted in a changing world and how this impacted on our members, young farmers, rural young people and the organisation and as always we have faced them head on, made the changes needed and brought the opinions of our members to the fore.
Every member of Macra should be proud of the journey we have gone on over the last two years. At a time when there has been intense focus on the charity sector, Macra na Feirme is ahead of the curve in taking steps to ensure that those who support our organization - whether that’s nationally or locally - can be safe in the knowledge that we are operating in a transparent and trustworthy manner while ensuring that the voice of our members is at the heart of every decision that is made. I would like to thank every member who took part in the consultation process, all of the National Council Representatives for their hard work in encouraging participation and conveying the message back to the membership and to everyone involved in the pain staking process of developing the governing documents that now guide our organisation.
Through the hard work of our Agricultural Affairs committee Macra has continued to be the voice of young farmers. Our CAP Policy document has been well received throughout the European institutions and we should be very proud that the ideas generated by Macra members have played a huge part in shaping the proposals of the new CAP and making generational renewal a top priority. The publication of our ‘Sustainable Beef Policy’ is the culmination of months of consultation with our members and sets out a road map that we believe can guide us towards a beef sector that can provide a sustainable income and will attract more young farmers to enter. The future of everyone involved in the sector is inextricably linked to a new generation of young beef farmers and every step must be taken to encourage them. We have also continued to fight when the future of young farmers is threatened and the recent clarification on how the stamp duty will be interpreted comes through the pressure exerted by Macra. It is a significant improvement but there is still progress to be made.
Our Rural Youth committee have focused their work on consulting with the membership to determine the real issues impacting on the lives of rural young people, mental health, urbanisation, lack of employment options in rural areas, lack of transport options and the National Broadband plan which has become a source of frustration for us all. The committee’s work on driving test waiting times highlighted the impact that we can have as we have seen a renewed focus on reducing these times for young people.
Over the two years Macra Agricultural Skillnet grown exponentially and has provided a service to thousands of young people, offering them the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills. This demand is a reflection of the value that young farmers place on training, technical development and even the softer skills required in managing any business. This inspired the recent report on Continuing Professional Development, which is a huge piece of research and which will start a discussion that can change the face of agriculture, recognising young farmers as professionals.
Finally, I cannot express what an honour it has been to serve as National President of this organisation for the last two years. I would like to thank every member for making it such a memorable experience. I would like to thank all those who have served on National Council, our sub-committees and the board over the last two years for their hard work and commitment to the betterment of Macra. Thank you very much to the staff who support our members in reaching their full potential for their dedication to the organisation and for putting the wishes of the members in to action.
Most importantly however, thank you to all those club and county officers around the country who ensure our clubs and counties continue to be as active and vibrant as ever. You are the bedrock on which Macra na Feirme is built on and I urge to continue that work for the years to come. Here’s to the next 75 years.