Massive farming protest and rally organised for Monday

Farmers aim to highlight devastation of collapsing incomes on rural economy

Mayo farmers will be out in force next Monday when they conduct a tractorcade through Castlebar to highlight Government cuts and the devastating impact that collapsing farm incomes have on the rural economy in Mayo.

Mayo IFA county chairman Martin Gavin said through a combination of poor farm market prices for all commodities, a disastrous and costly wet summer, and repeated draconian Government cuts on farm schemes, farm incomes are expected to fall by 25 per cent in 2009. This, combined with a reduction of 13 per cent in 2008, means that farm incomes will have fallen by over 38 per cent in the last two years.

Mr Gavin pointed out that agriculture is vital to the rural economy of Co Mayo and is the largest indigenous industry in the county.

He said the tractorcade is further evidence of the anger of farmers who are facing into a winter of cash shortages, while trying to provide for their families and keep their businesses afloat.

A strong farming sector leads to a vibrant rural economy and the Mayo IFA county chairman thanked rural businesses in anticipation of their understanding and support for this campaign for rural Ireland.

This tractorcade is part of IFA’s ongoing national campaign for equity and fairness for farm families, and is one of 29 taking place throughout the country in each of IFA’s county executive areas.

IFA president Padraig Walshe added: “Almost every town throughout rural Ireland is dependent on agriculture and the income collapse will lead to significant downturn in business across the rural economy and the Government must take immediate action to address this issue.”

The farming president has called on all rural TDs and ministers to defend and support the sector through this crisis.

Fine Gael deputy Michael Ring is supporting the local farmers. “I’ve never in all my political career seen all sectors of the agricultural sector collapsing at one time. The beef, milk, and sheep sectors are all being hammered with reduced prices year after year. Government cuts in area based payments are adding to the burden and it’s very demoralising for hard working farmers,” he told the Mayo Advertiser.

“If we don’t stand up for farmers now we’ll regret it as a nation. We’ll have a shortage of food and we won’t be able to support ourselves. By supporting farmers we are supporting jobs in rural Ireland and those who ignore their pleas are attacking rural Ireland. All they are looking for is a fair price for their commodities and they should get a fair price. When you buy their commodities in the supermarket, despite falling prices paid to the farmers, prices for products on supermarket shelves aren’t falling so someone is winning but it’s not the farmer. They are being ripped off,” he added.

Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary has met with local farmers. “I met a few hundred farmers in the last few weeks at clinics and I share their concerns particularly in relation to REPS and milk prices,” he said. “I’m keeping the pressure on Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith in relation to the REPS issue and working at EU level in relation to milk prices.

“The IFA have given us a good document outlining where savings can be made. Everybody accepts that savings have to be made in the Department but I’m keeping the pressure on in relation to the issues that have been highlighted to me.”

While Dep Beverley Flynn has been pleading the case for island farmers who she said will be badly hit if the current crisis over REPS is not resolved. “There is no better argument for the retention of REPS than to see the improvements which have been achieved by island farmers over the past 10 years,” she said.

The Mayo IFA chairman has pointed out that while the local TDs sympathise with them it will be up to the politicians at the end of the day to protect the industry.

The tractorcade will assemble at 11.30am on Monday on the Dublin Road outside Castlebar and will proceed along the route which has yet to be decided in conjunction with the local gardaí. A rally will take place along the way.

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