You are on page 1of 24

Session 1 - Realising the potential of the traditional Irish farm. Kevin Sheridan.

This is the first work shop, is authentic food culture realising the potential of the traditional Irish farm and Dr. ine Macken Walsh from Teagasc is going to give us a presentation, about 25 minutes long, it sounds like a lot of time but actually I think its a fascinating presentation and once thats done well open to discussion to the floor and see what comes out of it, so welcome Dr. ine Macken

Dr. ine Macken Walsh. Thank you Kevin and good morning. As broadly introduced by Kevin Im going to focus on farmers and the potential of a greater proportion of farmers to participate in the growing industry of artisan speciality or high value added foods generally. In this presentation Im going to have 3 main areas of focus. First Im going to overview the structure of Irish agriculture very briefly to give some context. Second Im going to review some of the main challenges and difficulties experienced by farmers from a sociological perspective in entering high value added markets. And third I want to present to you today details of a model that may have some promise in addressing some of the difficulties that farmers are experiencing. And also to address the somewhat very vulnerable status of a proportion of Irish farms. Now to have a very quick look at current incomes on Irish farms. As we can see from this graph the average farm income in 2010 and this is data from the most recent national farm survey published last month, the average income across all farm types was 17,771. Now its important to note that this average total income includes agricultural subsidies and all income from the market. As noted here 13% of farms had an income of over 40,000 in 2010 and 25% of farms had an income of less than 3,500 and as we said earlier the average figure was over 17,000. And now just a very quick snap shot of the breakdown of family farm income. We can see the total income in the dark green column and of that total you can see in the light green colour beside it, the proportion derived from subsidies and then in the more olive type of green colour the proportion derived from market sales of agricultural produce. Now this table does break down the income for different farm types, you can see there dairy, cattle rearing and so on. As this graph illustrates the market income for all cattle and sheep farms, those which incidentally make up 73% of all farms in Ireland is in the negative and this means essentially that the produce is being sold in the market at a loss and that the subsidies in these cases are used not as an income subsidy as many may think but indeed as a subsidy to cover the costs of producing the food, animal feed and so on. And if we look at the final figure depicted on the graph there, which depicts all Irish farm types, an amalgamation, we can see that the market income as a proportion of total income is very low, its just the last of the 3 columns there, you can barely see it. And we can see there that the total farm income is actually almost the equivalent of income from subsidies, so theyre almost the same.

Now this very last graph, because I dont want to burden you with too many figures, you can see that the number of farms is decreasing in Ireland. Between 1993 and 2007, a period of 14 years there was a reduction in number of 33,200 farms. Furthermore we can see from the graph that the average farm size is increasing. Now I think its very important to note that this, the fact that the average farm size is increasing is indicative that a reduction of farm numbers, so that reduction of over 33,000 does not mean necessarily a reduction in the total area of land that is farmed. But it does mean, because the farm size is actually increasing but it does mean however a reduction in the number of individual farmers or farm families. So is this a problem really, what are the consequences of a reduction in farm numbers. It is observed in Europe and elsewhere internationally that trends showing a decrease in farm numbers or showing a decrease in farming and farmed landscapes can lead to forms of rural decline more generally. This situation from the middle agriculture movement in the US summarises the types of losses that can result from a decline in farming and farm numbers. They say, referring to their own agenda of course, which is to preserve agriculture and farming, that this is not just about saving the family farm, it is about the associated social, economic and environmental costs to society. With the loss of each family farm they say a rural community loses approximately $720,000 in related economic activity. Ecologists now affirm that the only way we can manage farm land in an ecologically sound manner is by having the farmer living on his or her land long enough and intimately enough to have learned how to manage it properly. With the loss of ecological land health they say we see the loss of soil quality, wild life and recreational areas. And with the loss of rural populations they say, the loss of public services, education, health care, transportation, inevitably follow. To contextualise this to Europe and to Ireland more specifically the EU Salzburg declaration associates a loss of rural social fabric they call it with a decline in farming and the declaration notes that an agriculture on the model of the USA with vast spaces of land and few farmers is neither possible nor desirable in European conditions where the basic concept remains the family farm. And indeed a recently published IFA UCD study makes the argument that farms are not only important to the agricultural economy but to the wider national economy. Referring to the multiplier effect from agriculture, the report finds that of every 100 worth of agricultural output, 72 is produced in the wider economy. So considering such arguments for the continuation of at least a proportion of Irish farms, these farms that are currently operating as food production enterprises and also maintaining agriculture landscape what are the routes towards viability for these enterprises. Michael Porters well known seminal work entitled the Competitive Advantage of Nations, notes that there are 2 ways to be competitive in a global economy, one being the lowest cost supplier of an undifferentiated commodity or two providing the market with a unique and superior value in terms of product quality, special features or after sales services.

Considering these different routes, very different routes towards competitiveness, the particular vulnerability of smaller and mid sized farms is noted internationally, not just in the Irish case. The middle agriculture white paper explains the problem as follows. They say the mid sized farms are the most vulnerable in todays polarised markets, since they are too small to compete in the highly consolidated commodity markets, yet too conventional and too commoditised to sell in the direct speciality markets. So this sums up the type of conundrum that is experienced by these farms. One might well ask in this context how do Irish farms compare to US farms in terms of size, but it is argued in the literature on middle agriculture that the problem with farm viability is in fact not entirely determined by scale, but more accurately by the positioning of farms visa vie the markets at any given time. They say that the problem is not scale determined but more accurately scale related. That is farms of any size may be part of the market that at any given time falls between the vertically integrated commodity markets and the direct speciality markets. As suggested by the figures presented in the slides at the beginning of the presentation, a proportion of Irish farms is pursuing the commodity route with some success, they are producing cost efficient yet high quality commodities. Yet as the figures in this slide suggest, there is evidence that an even smaller proportion of Irish farms are producing foods that have what Porter would call a superior value with special features or characteristics. These figures show that less than 5% of farms in Ireland have diversified and diversification I should mention here does include the production of alternative agricultural products such as goats milk for example. And these figures show that just .4% have engaged in on farm processing. So reflecting then on the full range of figures presented at the beginning of the presentation and these figures in relation to farm diversification, it does appear that a proportion of Irish farms exist somewhere in the middle of these 2 routes towards competitiveness. In this middle ground between the commodity markets on one hand and the speciality markets on the other. A range of studies have examined farmers low rate of engagement in alternative income generating activities such as tourism, leisure or small food enterprises. And from various perspectives research has identified a range of possible reasons for farmers non engagement. A central question often underpinning such research has been to explore why farmers while very readily engaging with agricultural schemes such as the rural environment protection scheme, the REP scheme for example, have not tended to readily engage with enterprise support schemes, such as the EC Leader program for example which was, perhaps contrary to common belief, was in fact designed to assist unviable small and mid sized farms specifically. Aside from the more obvious economic and bureaucratic reasons relating for example to lack of capital for investment in alternative or add on business ventures and also the very complex application procedures for enterprise support, there are also very significant social and cultural reasons that explain farmers non engagement.

Sociological studies have discussed how traditional farmers knowledge forums and their particular type of occupational identity and preferences are centred on agriculture production activities, conventional agricultural production activities and they attach what sociologists call cultural capital or put more simply forms of prestige and esteem to these agricultural production activities. Farmers occupational identities and farmers cultural capital may on the other hand have little or no relationship with the types of industry and corporate activities that are required to establish and make a success of small food enterprises. For a large proportion of farmers who are investing full time in agricultural production undertaking the necessary corporate activities to brand and bring their product to market may not even be possible if even from a work load and time perspective. Furthermore the phenomenon of the one man farm in Ireland as well as elsewhere in Europe, where farm spouses are increasingly working off the farm and where farm off spring are engaged in tertiary education and also in employment off the farm, this further constricts the skills base that can be drawn on to establish and to develop small food enterprises. But is there a way of addressing these challenges. In other words to facilitate the most vulnerable farmers, those that are small and mid sized to enter into higher value added markets so that they can remain viable into the future. In thinking about this it is necessary in the first instance to consider the product, is there grounds, is there sufficient grounds for marketing the produce of conventional family farms in Ireland as premium differentiated products, is there grounds for that in the first instance. And second, if so how can farmers in a practical sense gain entry into high value added markets, how can the issue surrounding their occupational identities and their preferences be addressed in an effort to assist farmers in accessing high value added markets. To help answer that question and thinking first about the potential product of such family farms, a particular product type or segment of products is identified by the middle agriculture model literature as having particular advantage in the market place. The model states there is a burgeoning market demand for foods, neither cheap commodity foods or expensive luxury speciality foods, that are somewhere in the middle and are produced in accordance with sustainable agriculture standards. They say that it is precisely the farmers of the middle who are in the best position to produce these products. This citation encapsulates both the vision of middle agriculture but also what is perceived as the special value or the special characteristic of the middle agriculture product. It goes as follows, imagine a large number of small and mid sized conventional family farmers linked together in a marketing network, producing regional food products, using sound conservation practices, providing their animals with the opportunity to perform their natural functions, preserving the identity of such food products and making them available in the market place with opportunities for consumers to access the entire story of the products life cycle. So thats sums up the orientation of this product, that the middle farmers are in a position to produce. The white paper, the US white paper on middle agriculture elaborates in full the type of product that is associated with what is referred to here as sustainable or green agricultural standards. But references to such are also present in documents underpinning Irelands

current growth strategy. The pathways for growth document, you have a copy of it there in your packs, states that Ireland is small, not multinational and that its competitors for the green market cannot deliver on that promise. We also see quite abundant references of the promise of the green marketing route in documents such as harvest 2020 and Irelands smart economy. So back to the core question of how well resources are existing Irish farms to pursue the green route and to attach this very important food story to their products as a strategy to gaining high or value added. When the characteristics of Irish agriculture are considered, the existing characteristics of Irish agriculture are considered, its apparent that such a product is arguable already in production on the vast majority of Irish farms, and this is a key point. Those farms that are smaller and mid sized and those that are run by traditional farm families, in fact the majority of existing farms are indeed small and mid sized and non intensive. They have sophisticated production and food safety standards and this makes up the work of Teagasc, that interacts with 100s of farmers on a daily basis. Irish farms have high animal welfare standards and grass based production systems. And the fact that the vast majority of Irish meat is free range or open pasture is a valuable attribute. High numbers of Irish farms participated in agri-environmental schemes, 59,000 farms in fact in the REP scheme. However REPs or indeed the replacement scheme AEOS are not generally or typically used as a branding feature on produce of farms that are compliant with these schemes and this does point to an added obvious area of branding potential. Furthermore the cultural significance of Irish farms is extremely rich. The majority of Irish farms have been in the same farming families for generations and farmers inherited knowledge of the land also support a differentiated marketing strategy. Relevant to branding and marketing of Irish family farm produce is what sociologists and anthropologists call anthropomorphises and farmers, this really refers to the way in which farmers can have interesting names for fields in their farms, that tell a story and that are part of local folklore. The animals on their farms are often the progeny of animals that have been on their farms for generations. And all of these factors and other factors provide a richness and an authentic Irish richness to the branding food story that is core to the middle agriculture strategy. A further aspect of Irelands potential food story is the regional dimension to farming. UCC food historian Regina Sexton has profiled livestock and horticultural breeds that are indigenous to different regions of Ireland. She notes in fact that the indigenous Irish food culture is not centred on processed foods, but on distinctive regional primary foods that are differentiated to the standard commodity that is available worldwide. Such breeds as can be gleaned from the perspectives of the Harvard academics that wrote Pathways for Growth, would have particular appeal to niche markets abroad. And its critical to note that the middle agriculture product that weve just overviewed is complementary to Irelands existing commodity market and Irelands existing artisan food industries, the artisan food is a very rare product. It exists, this middle agriculture product somewhere in the middle, it represents this middle ground that so many Irish

farms occupy. The complementarity of the middle agriculture product to existing industries is advocated in the innovation literature which talks about the need to use combinations of existing capitals focusing on exiting gaps in the market in a creative way. From a sociological perspective, from the perspective of what has the potential to work among members of the farming community, considering their preferences, considering their professional identities, what is very promising about the middle agriculture model is that it depends on and focuses on the use of existing capitals rather than focusing on the need to create new products and new capitals. In this sense its really important that what is required is not a revolution among Irish farms in relation to their resources, how they farm, their scale or the products that theyre in fact producing. But instead a very realisable process that depends on the application of cutting edge industry skills which are held by very any young graduates who are also very knowledgeable in the area of social media applying these skills to what farmers are already doing and producing. But such a task is not easy at all even though it does use existing resources but it is potentially quite complex and this is in the most part due to the fact that in order for it to work and be genuinely representative of farmers, that farmers must become part owners of a functional value chain structure which connects them, the farmer and the market directly and organises the farmers into marketing networks to reduce transaction costs, this is the realistic method which must be used to achieve this middle agriculture vision and marketing strategy. If farmers dont themselves become part of the value chain they will instead remain input suppliers which is what they already are and other parts of the chain will continue to have the value added. Furthermore if farmers remain input suppliers and not partners in the value chain, that link between the producer and the product, that link between the producer and the consumer, that is ever important to consumers, will be weakened. In order for such a network of farmers to have the required market effect and to be successful, the middle agriculture model advocates that a collective of farmers join together to achieve the critical mass to contract or buy in the necessary corporate and industry services to bring their product successfully to market. Now I should note here that this may not be a model that would suit the artisan sector but the artisan sector is a very rare sector, it is comprised of individuals who process and bring their own product to market, this is a different strategy and in fact its a different product. There are existing corporate models that facilitate farmers to collaborate by joining resources, the farm partnership model originally developed in France and adjusted to Irish conditions by my colleague Ben Roche here is one such model already in operation in Ireland that allows neighbouring farmers or members of the same farming family to pool their skills and form an enterprise on the family farm. However on a larger scale the cooperative solution is advocated by the middle agriculture model. There are different forms of cooperatives local cooperatives that have 10 to 15 members and are locally managed, centralised cooperatives that have up to 1000s of members and are centrally coordinated and managed. Now these cooperatives, mainly due to their size

are noted to have the tendency to lose some of their democratic processes and become in ways undifferentiated to private limited companies and this of course has consequences for the product that is being sold through such cooperatives in the sense that such large cooperatives can indeed sever that authentic linkage between the producer and the product. Federated cooperatives however are a more innovative and newer form of cooperative and these are constituted of local cooperatives with their own product which remain independently managed but do operate under an umbrella federation with the purpose of achieving scale, coordination of product and market bargaining power. The middle agriculture model emphasises the needs for what might be called a neuvo form of cooperative, to be underpinned in the most part by principles of governance and sustainability. And this is congruent with the types of product that these cooperatives are expected to produce and be associated with. They say older cooperative association reformed in an area when mobilisations were organised or cooperatives were organised predominantly for power and getting a fair share. They say that many are routed in the first half of the 20th century when words like ecology and sustainability were barely in the language, so they are differentiating the federated cooperative here to the more traditional cooperative, the larger cooperative that sells commodities. But how are they operationalised, how can these federated cooperatives come into effect. In essence farmers themselves must be facilitated to create the cooperatives at the local and regional level in a bottom up way. If farmers do not take ownership of the process they indeed, how can they become partners in the value chain and indeed how can an authentic link between the farmer and the product be claimed. Participatory techniques employed by facilitators and sociologists can be used to promote among groups of farmers and remembering also the networks that exist in the country already, particularly surrounding all of the numerous Teagasc offices and so on as well as the very many interest groups operating at the local levels such as IFA local groups and so on. But these participatory techniques employed among farmers to promote genuine farmer ownership and good governance and democratic processes to institutionalise this at the very outset into the cooperative structure. An important task also is to explore and uncover, rediscover regional food heritage and distinctive characteristics of farm based production in the region. And Regina Sexton has profiled even down to the county the various indigenous breeds. But also to rediscover that among the farmers themselves so that they can take ownership of that culture. And also to promote and to use the local group as a learning medium for organisations such as Teagasc to disseminate the continuously updated farm production techniques, animal welfare standards and environmental standards that are continuously coming down the line.

The local cooperatives established at the regional level would remain distinctive from each other, necessarily in terms of their product and in terms of the decisions that are taken at the local level in relation to that product. But the federation as demonstrated by the middle agriculture model and these federated cooperatives that are already up and running for decades in the US, would provide services to the cooperatives, the individual local cooperatives such as a common seal to endorse food product and brands of local coops, highlighting the middle agricultural values. A third party certification methodology bringing consistency and guarantees to the consumer. Regional and national coordination of activities and flows of product. Professional broad scale marketing and advertising. Research, education and other supports. And I think the opportunity to be here today and to have inputs and discussion with you is extremely valuable and Im going to leave you with just some references that you might like to take note of, that provide further information on the middle agriculture model and some of the statistics I presented today as well, thank you.

Kevin Sheridan. Thank you ine. I hope that was of interest to everybody and I think its a great way to start todays discussions, really coming back to the fundamentals of Irish food and our food culture and where it comes from and where we can go with it. Just one reminder, coming from my own phone, make sure you have your phones off please. Id just like to say Im going to ask the panel to introduce themselves, what organisation theyre from and their position within that organisation, the panel is there to help us in this discussion. There is a microphone oh the floor so anybody who wants to put a question to a panel member is welcome to, please just state your name, if youre from an organisation to state that as well, were recording all of this here today so its important that we know where the questions are coming from and well get the session going. So if we just start with maybe Mark if you want to introduce yourself and then well Mark Winterbotham. Thanks Kevin, good morning everyone, Im Mark Winterbotham, one half of Gold River Farm and also Im a board member of Organic Trust. Im privileged to be here today but really I am a traditional farmer but with a twist, we supply directly all our products to catering and since 1999 I formed a partnership with Alan Pierce and from there we have grown from 7 acres to just under 150 acres and again full control of our product, not leaving our hands and we have full margin. It has all the implications and logistics and everything else but over the years we have been able to tweak our service and we offer a reliable service all year round using seasonal Irish veg, no imports. And the one aspect I suppose thats coming out of it all is we are price setters, not takers, we are very transparent in our policy and the charges we need but for that I think is one of the key aspects of Irish farming in the future, we have to have a proper level of cost of production and be transparent and get the right money for our product.

Marian Byrne. Im Marian Byrne, Im head of the food industry development division in the department of agriculture, food and the marine and were responsible for promoting the development of the food sector in all its aspects and strongly supporting Bord Bia and working with the other agencies too. So weve taken an interest in Harvest 2020 in the artisan speciality sector, at the same time were very conscious always of the huge export focus of Irish agriculture and that well be coming to later I think, on images and that. so we would be very open I think to new models if theyre sustainable and if they really would assist a sustainable farming into the next generation. Peter Young. Peter Young, Im a farmer and journalist, I farm with my wife Jenny in Kildare, we have an organic farm, dairy, beef and a range of produce for our farm shop. I suppose Im a journalist, Ive been writing for the farmers journal for 16 years, initially focusing on commodity dairy, beef, sheep production but over the last 6 years on diversification, basically trying to get farmers to think differently, to look differently at resources, what they have. And I mean one thing Ive learned is it is a hard slog, its not easy, I mean farmers do like to remain in the middle, they like to remain in the hard but they will move if they see a return for what they get. I mean over the last few years weve seen, you know farmers are producing, probably many of them at a loss but theyre willing to produce, the subsidies are there but theyre willing to change as well and I think thats a positive, its one of the ingredients you know that we can have going forward. Pat Smith. Pat Smith, Im general secretary of the Irish farmers association and certainly I dont profess to be an expert in this space and Im here to listen intently and to see what we can do as an association to help and assist because I know all too well that the people in this room as entrepreneurs, youre risk takers, youre the last people to be paid at the end of the week, you have all the headaches of regulation, banking, funding, logistics, selling and to succeed its not easy. And an association such as ours with one objective is to try and add value, put money in farmers pockets, put money into the rural economy and certainly any ideas that come from today well take on board and take back to the IFA and see what we can do on your behalf. Denis Carroll. Denis Carroll is my name, Im involved in Ring of Kerry quality lamb, were a group of sheep farmers who have got together to market our own lamb and no more than Pat here I dont claim to be an expert either, Im just an ordinary farmer trying to make a living and what we did is out of frustration, we came together, I suppose 3 years ago the idea was first muted where wed come together and organise ourselves and have full control of our lamb right through to the end consumer. Weve had a lot of obstacles on the way but were still up and running anyway and like to think were learning. And I must say it was fascinating to listen to ines presentation there, I would like to think that our model fits in very well to what she has outlined as a vision for middle agriculture, I think thats a lovely phrase actually, middle agriculture. I suppose traceability was a big thing that we have as farmers and we felt then the traditional system of lamb slaughtering and that, we

questioned that traceability whereas we have that 100% locked tight, all our members are Bord Bia quality assured. And I suppose the other thing we did was we set a price, a farm gate price for our lamb which we felt we as producers were entitled to and we went to the market with that price, we did things back to front and Im delighted there that, Mark said were price setters and I think certainly that is the key if we are going to save agriculture as we presently know it, we have to become price setters. And the other thing, I think to buy into ines concept, I think we as farmers need to get involved in this movement and to own it and to own as much, to get as much of the return as we can back from the market place, that is the only way that we can survive. Kevin Sheridan. Thank you Denis and thank you to all the panel, I think its a great mix from Irish agriculture and food, thank you all for being part of this. Im going to start the discussion with a question to ine and go back a little bit to the beginning of the presentation because there seems to be, to me to be some choices in there in terms of the direction that we want to go in and I just want to ask from Teagasc point of view, you know what is the likely outcome if we choose to pursue the commodity model and what would that mean, we talked about decreasing farm numbers there, what do we think the landscape would look like maybe in 10 years, 15 years time in terms of farm numbers and are there other consequences, you know to solely pursuing that model. ine Macken Walsh. Well the literature would discuss that, you know theres a vast amount of literature on discussing the consequences of pursuing the commodity route and I suppose there are 2 aspects, there is a social consequence in terms of rural depopulation and then there is another consequence which is more orientated to the food product and I suppose the effect that the landscape, in a commodity market, the landscape of the countries producing that product loses the link with the product so that there is less of a stamp of the country on the product but Id like to perhaps ask Ben Roche to comment on that, as a Teagasc representative and I think Liam (?) would have the economics also on that question. Ben Roche. I think yeah if we go the commodity route, if we just draw a comparison with New Zealand, dairy farms in New Zealand, average dairies size, herd size, is somewhere around 360 odd cows at the moment. Now the number of dairy farmers in Ireland that are of that size are quite a small number, so if we go that route well probably end up with a very small number of farmers. Now I think in going forward, you know it doesnt take a genius to say that we shouldnt put all our eggs into the one basket, I think theres room for farmers to operate on a very commercial basis and produce commodities. But if you go that route only, then as ine was saying it will get rid of the family farm, were going to lose the food story, well have less of a food story, the traditions of rural Ireland and tourists come to Ireland maybe they like the countryside, the maintainers of the countryside are the farmers, theres huge diversification in terms of different parts of the country because things are kept differently. The food thats produced on different farms in Ireland, theres huge variety with the different traditions. If we had very small number

10

of farmers producing on a commodity basis, well well certainly have, you know it certainly wont be very diverse. The other factor which is surely really important is if we were to go only the commodity route, what will be the real differences between the food that we produce in Ireland and food thats produced in other countries in the world that you know produce commodities and commodities by their very nature, they have less specifics in terms of the history behind them and so on so I think its really important that we go down the diversification route. And if I just add to that, I think that theres huge potential in Ireland for the family farm to I think create jobs in terms of going the food story because like weve had good progress in the last number of years in areas like cheese and other farm products there, theres an awful lot more that can be done. Kevin Sheridan. Thank you Ben. Id like to put it to the floor. Liam Dunne. First of all Id like to thank ine for an excellent presentation and articulation of a long and silent sector called middle agriculture that generally dont feature, theyre below the radar, yet collectively, the collective profile of these farmers, because of numbers if that they relate to a substantial human resource, a substantial land resource, a substantial food resource, a substantial environmental assets and they have been largely ignored because we pursued a model of scale and intensity. Scale and intensity will not solve the problems of these farmers, it might be part of the solution but it certainly wont solve their problems. For the simply reason because of their size and intensity they are not in a position to get price discounts on their purchases because of their poor negotiating power. They will lack price bonuses on their sales because they have an undifferentiated product. Probably technology is developed and designed and probably promoted primarily at the bigger farmers because its easier to do, they have the resources to take it up, so technology, farm production technology for these farmers is probably second hand, if you pardon the phrase. Yet they produce a product that has desirable attributes that are not recognised because theyre selling their product in a volume market. So we need to do something to capitalise on that. Its not surprising we went down this route because that was the way European agricultural policy went for 3 decades and it is only now becoming reoriented. Now this relates to some of the panel maybe, because we rarely hear about these farmers because theyre not a model that will get into the farming press because theyre not, they dont feature in that domain. I would also suggest that theyre underrepresented in policy formation and policy representation. If I could use the analogy, theyre like as useful as a government back bench TD, theyre very good for income averaging. Policy decisions, as a consequence of their under representation, policy decisions tend to favour the larger units and the more intensive production system which again puts them at a disadvantage. Yet middle agriculture farmers as outlined by ine conform with what the EU promote as the EU model of farming. But we dont seem to be able to mesh the 2. They produce environmental friendly production systems, theyre good at managing natural resources, they provide probably useful links with recreation and tourism, this is all under developed. Perhaps theres an opportunity, the redistribution of the single farm payment is up for review and this I think is where new ideas and new ideals should feed in because theres nothing like an incentive and REPs

11

and all these schemes have proved this, that farmers respond to incentives very quickly. I would suggest that we develop some sort of advocacy to incorporate the deluxe food attributes of these farmers into market based products but use the reorientation of the single farm payment to lubricate the process. So I would ask the panel, maybe individuals comment on individual bits of what I have said and any of you collectively as well. Pat Smith And as Peter said this is not a simple game and I do think at regulatory level there must be a lot simpler, some of the rules and regulations that basically people have to endure on a day to day basis make it nigh impossible and a massive disincentive to people taking on these roles. The other thing that I think that has to happen and certainly from a department and government perspective Leader has a significant amount of money there but try to get you people in this room, try to get money and get support and assistance to try and develop your businesses out of Leader, the rules and regulations prevent the support for on farm development and food and that needs to be addressed as well. Peter Young. Yeah and I mean just looking at it, it is about culture and I think the EU has, in setting the policy they have developed a culture that farmers have looked to, you know draw subsidies, focus on the subsides more than production. I mean when milk quotas were there and theyre still there and theyll be gone in 2015, it was very comfortable place to be a 50 cow dairy man, you know you knew what your milk price was going to be for the year, you know and a lot of farmers they were happy being there. And its a very nice place to be, you know if you can farm all your life and not go to the market and a lot of farmers thats what they want to do, theyd prefer to just farm, you know leave the rest to somewhere else. I agree the commodity route is something there but its not something we should ignore because I remember going to Denmark and seeing partnerships over there. I mean their take on partnership was you put the land together, you let 1 or 2 people work the farm and the other 3 or 4, 2 or 3 others can go and release their resource, release their time to do something else. In France by and large what theyre doing is theyre adding value because 4 or 5, 3 or 4 are joining together, they have additional time or resource. Because its very time consuming, a 50 cow or beef or sheep, you know hes very busy, to ask him to go along and to do the, its difficult to go out to the farmers markets, to do branding, I mean Ring of Kerry is a great example of it, coming together but theyve identified 3 or 4 guys who have the capacity to do it as well, not all farmers have the capacity. So coming back, it is about changing the culture, you know its about getting out there, what can be done, any farmer can get into a pressure group to get inputs lower, weve got to get farmers reacting, you know give them the incentives but make them do it themselves as well and thats changing the culture, I think thats as important as anything else at the moment. Mark Winterbotham. I think one of the crucial issues here though is the age, the age gap and the profile of most of the farmers in Ireland, theres stats there that over 50% of the Irish farming is over 55 years of age and 7% are less than 35 years of age. To develop and to put all the effort in

12

and the work load into a new business, new ventures, cooperative, it is a new mindset, its a young guys perception, its quite hard to get even the middle range, 45 to 60 age group farmer to change what hes done for generations and his father has done maybe the same as well. So its not going to be a quick fix and I think education is crucial. Sow the seeds of diversification in your kids and then that will progress and progress and then colleges, third level colleges have a huge area where they can show a template that works and trigger the mindset of the new graduates that come out and take on this. Kevin. Sure, Im hearing from the 3 panel members who have spoken there and obviously inclination towards the need for change, the need for development but I would say pushing that outside, you know what are the roles of the IFA, of the farming community in terms of journalists and their representatives in leading that from the farmers point of view as opposed to looking outside of that for something to come in, you know. From what Ive heard today weve got a model which is being proposed and which is in train at the moment, which is a commodity model but you know from the IFAs point of view for example, do you see dangers within that model and what are you doing, you know in terms of your interaction with your members to look at developing another model.

Pat Smith. I think this event, taste council, I must complement bringing these people here today, you know the one thing about the farming community in my experience is they learn from the leaders, they learn from people who get out there and do it, you people are all leaders in your own way and tough and all as it is and youve been out there in your communities and then seeing success and obviously focusing in on the youth and I think maybe from a Teagasc perspective, the Ag. Colleges are bustling now with young people wanting to get back into agriculture maybe there needs to be a little piece in all of the courses of entrepreneurialship and diversification. I think thats some place where basically it can start and you can start to sow the seeds of basically that type of entrepreneurialship. But look we are a small country of 4 million people, challenged economically but facing the opportunity of a world population thats growing by 200,000 people a day, where the demand for food is going to increase by somewhere up to 70% between now and 2050. Where the real issue is sustainability and I think the point was made earlier on, sustainability of food production and its not climate change in itself, its water for example and I see Michael Ewing representing the environmental pillar down there, the water availability in the world is the biggest limiting factor and as we all know were not short of it in this country. We have the potential, genuinely the potential to produce, significantly increase our production to the benefit of the smaller producer, the artisan producer but the commodity producer in a very significant way that can increase exports into this, export earnings into this country, create employment out in rural economies and sustain farm families and rural economies. So both have to work together and I do believe theres a massive opportunity, obviously we have to get it right at European level, we have to get it right at government level but one of the things that I believe has to happen if theres going to be equity and fairness, whether its the artisan food producers and I had very significant dealings with the whole Superquinn situation in the last number

13

of months, where basically the suppliers were just left high and dry, a banking deal done with a major multinational and a small jam producer left 35,000, left high and dry for 35,000 or whatever, thats what were up against. I think one of the things that has to happen at European and at national level is some code to basically regulate the retailer sector, theyre too powerful ladies and gentleman, there must be fair play and somebody spoke about foraging earlier on, theyre foraging on the backs of the primary producers and people like yourselves, both here and in Europe and that has to be addressed and I believe if thats addressed I think theres a really bright future for people small and big. Kevin. Thanks Pat, I think though the question still remains, that from the farming community and its representatives, that you know do you recommend another model, would you see the model proposed by ine here today, for using the resources that we already have within our family farms and using that, getting those farmers together, you talked about, you know needing training within Teagasc for entrepreneurs, weve got fantastic entrepreneurs here but something that Im sure of is that its a rare thing that somebody is able to farm, is able to market, is able to run that business and what we need is a model, farmers want to farm and Irish farmers are really, really good at it and they produce fantastic product but theyre not getting the benefit of that production. So is there a way do you think from the farming side of taking control, of not waiting for it to come from the outside but that the farming community says lets look at this model, do you think thats something that the IFA would work with. Pat Smith. Well I certainly think farmers are very open to look at anything thats likely to work and the model thats here, well lets see where its working and lets see how we can learn from that. And farmers are individuals but they have shown over the years, we have some of the most successful co-ops in the world in Ireland on a large scale. So if the model and the potential is there, certainly IFA is quite prepared to work with Teagasc to see if we can make that work and add value and get money back to the primary producer because certainly there is limitations in the whole area of marketing and logistics that has to basically be coordinated in some manner or means and thats happening out there, theres people in this room doing that in a sense. Marian Byrne. There are some, I think very often with issues like this there mightnt be just one solution and you cant just say this is the vision and this is going to be the plan, youve got to get buy in from so many different people. But there are a few good things that are happening at the moment, maybe quite small things, like those advisory groups, young farmers, quite small money being put in by the department, a couple of thousand per farmer, now there you get groups from the dairy side, people working together, theyre roughly of a generation, theyre getting access to advice in a kind of concentrated, in a group way. So they learn partly from the advisor, the advisor may learn from them, they learn from each other, they can sort of see what best practice is and although that at the moment is geared very much towards kind of the economics of running the farm and how to be more effective, reduce animal disease and so on, but that kind of model could be spread a bit

14

more and then let people identify a little bit for themselves what they think is good about their area, were mountainy or we have particularly pure water and if you can ally that too with developments on partnerships, now the whole rules on partnerships have changed and I think thats certainly an area where the department is quite open, to be honest, now Im no expert in it but there is a debate going on there, there are openness and you can think again, I mean in Ireland theres such an attachment to the land and that but in the courts and so on have recognised in the past the concept of the favoured nephew or the favoured niece or maybe not so often the favoured niece but again you could imagine types of partnerships where people are either sharing land, loaning land, sharing expertise and so on and then seeing what works and then perhaps building up networks from that. You see if you institutionalise something and youve mentioned Pat Leader and there are funding issues there and I think its going to take some months but theyre going to be eased. Its funny, if youre doing the fruit yoghurts youre alright but if theyre plain yoghurts you're not, so there is a bit more wriggle room there than maybe people realise. But one thing about Leader which has achieved a great deal is, and ines paper or presentation mentions it, there can be a bit of a disconnect with people who are serious framers, who want to improve, maybe dont want to take enormous risks, maybe have seen from the 1980s where they took risks and either bought land or expanded, that it didnt work. And so I think that, theres this word nowadays about having a conversation, I think we need to do more than have a conversation, but we need to look at diversity of models and themes and say well it might look a little different in different counties or for different sector but are there some ideas here which we can work, even the differentiation between the commodity and the artisan, like to some extent you can ask well when is commodity commodity, if youre supplying extremely high quality milk to Danone for infant formula, is that commodity or is it premium in commodity or is it something special on its own. And similarly with sustainability, I mean say the Bord Bia, the organic schemes, the Bord Bia schemes and so on, you find they are kind of pulling in a lot of people in a very simple way on sustainability or Glanbia itself, one of the large co-ops saying, having seen this work on the beef side, is saying wed like a share of that and wed like to do something and maybe put something in to it on the milk side and the other dairies thinking too. So I think we need quite a lot of openness, maybe more sharing of experience with these newer initiatives to see how are they working, do they work and then networks or something so that you can follow things, not just maybe from annual conference to annual conference. Now whether you do that through small working groups or larger working groups or networks but you say look were open here, were open here to ideas, they might not even cost a great deal and were not going to say that this is the only way to go, that there may be many ways to go because you dont want to crush local initiative. So Im afraid I havent come with a big cheque but just a few ideas. Kevin. I just want to go to the floor and bring in Ollie. Oliver Moore. Oliver Moore, centre for cooperative studies, UCC and Irish Examiner. Id like to complement ine on her presentation, its good to hear some sociological ideas coming in

15

to the agri food sector. I just want to check, Im wondering about barriers to bringing middle agriculture in, Im wondering whether youd comment maybe on whether processing power could be seen a barrier, like the way we grade meat for example in factories, could be seen to mitigate against traditional breeds and profitability therein. And also the retail power, I think you mentioned in the vision that using existing retail channels was part of the procedure but at all stages prior to the retail the farmer was getting more involved. So Im just wondering about, I suppose its using mainstream retail channels and processing power, theyre kind of the 2 question areas, because if you look at something like REPs, we did lose an opportunity to differentiate a product that 60,000 farmers were producing, we didnt put in place a production, distribution and consumption infrastructure that differentiated REPs food from other food and by doing that it meant REPs was one of the first things to get cut I suppose in a sense. So Im just wondering whether theres an issue with processing power and how processing works and then also whether using the retail model thats currently there is the best model as well. Kevin. Ok so theres a couple of questions there for the panel, the first one really is about, if were looking particular at meat, you know in terms of lamb and beef, 2 of our most valuable resources in terms of the way we rear them and what role the existing structure in terms of the processes that are there and how much power they hold. So maybe Ill start with Pat maybe in the IFA in terms of what you see as the role of the processors and are they a barrier to realising the potential that the Irish farmer has in getting value for the brilliant product they produce. Pat Smith. Well certainly if you talk to a farmer I know what the answer will be, but the reality is we need processors, we need successful processors thats with the curve and ahead of the curve and I think in the main while there is a need, certainly and Im talking globally here rather than artisan, if you look at our processors in the dairy end and as Marian said 16% of the world formula of milk is produced from Irish and theres big opportunities, so we have a processing structure here that is world class, the Kerrys, the Glanbias. In the beef end and look at any beef farmer, lamb farmer will have his own view of the processing industry but theyve changed in the last 4 or 5 years from a 100% going in with the benefit of export refunds or whatever, today 99% of our beef and lamb goes on the supermarket shelves or into the real market right across Europe, into 70 or 80 supermarket groups right across Europe, so theyre out there and theyre selling. And I believe what has to happen in the context of making progress in that space is there must be more transparency and openness, theres a mistrust between the processor and the farmer, particularly between the meat processor and the farmer. I think some of the mistrust is misplaced but I think its up to the industry to become more transparent, more open and work with the farming community because nobody owes us a living and we can say and certainly in my experience, this is the way I produced my beef for the last 10 years and why should I change, the consumer decides at the end of the day. And I think if were lucky in the next number of years that the industry will come closer to the farmer and that can only happen through trust and transparency, where everybody knows where

16

the cut in the game is and that theres fair play right across the spectrum but just I do believe in the context of the artisan group, theres huge opportunities. And certainly I was in America recently and one thing struck me and certainly if you look at the European population growth, ageism, people are getting older and the one thing that I see and certainly you can see it in Ireland and no disrespect to the retired people, they have more spending power, theyre not able to spend what they have and I do believe we have to look at niches like that where basically we have a really high quality, environmentally sustainable health benefits and all that type of thing and focus in on that area and theres huge opportunity both at home and particularly across Europe and American in that space. Kevin. Just in terms of staying with that question about whether there is a barrier with the processor, Denis I mean youve worked, I presume previously before setting up this organisation, directly with the mainstream processors and now youre working outside of that system, so what do you find or what do you see as the issues there. Denis Carroll. Yeah, in my view I wont pull my punches here, the reality, we were set up was because of how we were treated by the processors, lets call a spade a spade, you know they bought our lamb as cheap as they possibly could and they expected it was going to keep flowing, thats the reality, now my view of the processors is, I would love to develop an industry where Id be phoning a factory and say I want you to process x many lambs for my group, what are you going to charge me and we have them already marketed, that to me is the functioning of what processing, the existing plants that are in the country, now people might think thats dreaming but I think you need to dream and I think thats the reality. Just we met a guy, a senior guy, I wont name him, to be fair to him, within the whole industry, not in the processing industry now but in agriculture and we were talking to him about our group and the first he said youll go and build your own plant, you know I said thats the last thing well do, theres plenty of processing in the country, you know well work with what we have rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, you know. But just there was a comment passed earlier that you know Teagasc must do this and someone else must do that, I think its up to farmers, farmers lead. Like Teagasc have been absolutely most helpful to our group, Bord Bia have been brilliant, you can either light a candle or curse the dark, you must recognise where you are and work with the structures that are there, county development board, Peter there in the Farmers Journal gives us a plug, I met Peter at a competition. You must get off your butt and meet these people. Even theres people walking in to this room and theyre faces that I was trying to figure out where Id met them and it was through Ring of Kerry I met them and theres about 5 people walked in there and I cannot figure out where I met them but it was because of my involvement in the group and thats why I came up here today, was to meet people, to promote our group and thats what farmers have to do. Now Mark said, the issue about the age profile of the farmers and its certainly an issue but he said between 45 and 60, I actually just slip into that category so I wont right those off. But just to give you

17

you know I suppose its the process of growing older, its fascinating how your mind set changes, you know when youre young you want to change the world and youve all the answers and you think you're going to solve it but the reason Im here today is because Ive an 18 year old son who is milking the cows this morning and this evening for me, so like you know we bring that to the table. And the reason Im involved in the group is I tried developing my farm and developing a sustainable living for my family, going the commodity route and I started farming the 1st of January 1984 which meant there was a milk quota on my home farm waiting for me and I worked within that regime, thats how I got into sheet was because of, I couldnt expand my milk and Ive discovered it doesnt work at the scale of farm I have. So we had to do something else. So you know we either lie down under the pressure or we come together and we need leadership but we need leadership from farmers, its the farmers need to lead it. Kevin. In terms of that point, Pat do you see the IFA, again coming back to this, as leading this, as giving this leadership, I mean to give that power to the farmers so that they are the ones that are controlling, that they are the ones that are ringing up the factories, you know asking who is going to give them the best deal on processing their meat. Pat Smith Look, IFA is a compendium of farmers and Denis is a leader and words that he has spoken here today, Im sure hes spoken to many farmer groups over a period of time. Out of 100 people one lad will pick up on it but that one lad becomes the next Denis, thats the way it is, theres no easy slog, farmers are traditional, basically change is slow but I think theres a real opportunity with the type of entrepreneurial spirit of Denis and people like that to start to educate the new generation, theres a new generation happening in agriculture, theres a real opportunity here in the context of lack of off farm work, which was the option for years and I think we have to capture that and as an association through our 950 branches, well do everything in our power to assist and help in that regard. Kevin. Just coming back to the presenter at this stage, ine do you. ine Macken Walsh. Just might make a comment, particularly in relation to Ollies question there and I think Denis, I think you hit the nail on the head in a sense, Ollie you asked whether we, you know I made reference to using existing services, existing facilities in Ireland to complement what farmers are doing but as Denis said there is a reversal here that is the suggestion of farmers becoming part of the value chain rather than supplying to the value chain and Denis said I would like to ring a processor and ask the processor to process my produce at a fee, what will you charge me, rather than Denis being a price taker and having no option but to feed his product, the undifferentiated product into the factory system. And as Pat said there is no question about the success of the larger cooperatives and indeed of many of the factories in terms of the scale and the way in which they are operating in world commodity markets. But I think we really do need to bring a focus

18

back on to the actual income on the farm now and those figures that were presented at the beginning of the presentation, that I literally took from Teagascs national farm survey published just last month, shows that in fact theres a 46% increase of farm income, of the average farm income, so its currently 17,771, last year or in 2009 rather it was just over 12,000, so we need to reground our thinking I think in relation to well how viable are farmers and what are the economic benefits that farmers are having and farm families are having and we need to look at those figures. Also in relation to the factories and Ollie mentioned about well how are family farm produce, how is it evaluated, how is a value put on that produce in the context of the factory and the meat grid system and I think maybe others in the audience may know a little bit more about this, pays for meat yield only and as you rightly pointed out Ollie, there is no payment for the fact that this produce is produced in accordance with environmental standards or indeed thinking again about this food story, I know its not a quantitative, its something that cant be quantitatively measured, it is very qualitative but what is the social and cultural significance of this product, how can value be added to the product on that basis rather than just literally a machine that measures the yield. So its almost a different way of thinking about valuation of food products. Kevin. Can I just go, because were going to run out of time, a couple of questions from the floor? John Mulcahy. My name is John Mulcahy, Im from Failte Ireland so Id just like to bring a tourism perspective to this if I could. I mean what ine has been saying there is I suppose what Im about to say in terms of the richness or the complexity of what were talking about. The tourist expectations of the landscape is quite significant and what populates that landscape, they come here, 8 million plus visitors come here looking for small villages, livestock in small fields and looking for the practices and evidence of small agriculture. I think one of the key iconic pictures that we use over seas is a bunch of cattle coming home for milking and theyre stuck in the middle of the road and a tourist in his rental car and its entitled traffic jam in Ireland, which you know encapsulates everything I think that were talking about here. But not alone that, theres all the by-products in terms of the outdoor activities for tourists, the crafts, the unique breeds, the plant varieties and so on. And its unique that Denis is here today because certainly in the Iveragh peninsula we would have been quite concerned, if you guys left the land it would significantly affect the landscape of the Ring of Kerry, one of the iconic places for tourists to go and if that changed and no sheep in the fields, what would we say to the tourists. So its complex I know and its not all about that but you know having those guys coming around the Ring of Kerry in 100s of buses, adds significantly and theyre coming there to see that. Kevin. Reinforces the importance of the family farm to Ireland, not just within, as food producers but as custodians of the landscape as something that we have to offer.

19

Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith, St. Tola organic goat farm in West Clare. Im glad what Denis said there because I think its very important that in ines presentation that it comes from the ground. Obviously at national and European level there are very important decisions to be made but the farmers themselves have to take hold of this and a lot of farmers are reluctant to do so and those of us who have set up small industries on our own farm, I think our neighbours sit back and look and see what were at and kind of wait for a number of years before they decide to follow or not to follow. And as ine said artisan is rare and I think from looking in more detail into ines paper were also seeing as odd as well as rare. And a lot of farmers dont see themselves as odd. And as she pointed out a lot of farmers just want to farm but it is very important that organisations who represent farmers, like Pats organisation, as you said has over 80,000 members I said and other small organisation, I wont say small, like the ICA, ICMSA, that it has to come from the ground and this middle farming, this discussion has to start at the mart, you know in your local supermarket, at your local agricultural show and to come from there because unless we bring the middle farmers on the ground up, its very, you know it wont work from top down, it has to come from the ground up. And I know from working as a farmer and now dealing direct with retail outlets, like Ollie was talking about some of the multiples, a lot of the multiples and Im glad to see some of them represented here today, are very eager and very interested in this whole idea of you know the food story and very much are capitalising on it. And I must say that as a farmer I have found them very good to work with, theres a market ready for this middle ground farmers if they get going. Really just to emphasise the importance of farmers organisations and getting the farmers on the ground to be very much involved. Kevin. Thank you Siobhan, just one more question here. Ben Roche I think theres a huge window of food in Ireland, heres the restaurants and to me there seems to be, this is a personal experience, a huge disconnect between what restaurants serve and what farmers, and what's available locally. In particular if you talk about the main course, you know meat and fish we put a lot of emphasis on but the biggest space on the plate is the vegetables you put on there. Now if you go down to Wexford or Waterford, Cork, youll see on the side of the road, Wexford potatoes or Ballycotton potatoes, try go into a restaurant with very few exceptions and look for a few boiled Ballycotton or Wexford produced potatoes. I keep asking, I cant get them, the last time I had boiled potatoes was in a restaurant in east Cork but it was one out of about 100 restaurants where I asked, apart from that you get small little potatoes, flowery potatoes were used to, theres a disconnect somewhere there. Kevin. Thank you Ben, I think thats something we can address in the last panel today. Myrtle, I wont refuse, can we get the mike to Myrtle here.

20

Myrtle Allen I just would like to say that there is a chefs organisation called Euro-toques and the principle is to serve all local and natural food stuffs and theyre everywhere, all over the country and well send you a brochure where you can find them.

Myrtle Allen I would also like to say that we really need to get, Aer Lingus isnt too bad, you get Irish food on board, the little snack that you get but we should, first of all we need to have, weve got farmers, weve got chefs, what we need are a few gourmets who can tell the difference between a really good food and one that is trying to be good. And we need to find, there are people like that. Recently I had 2 men and theyve been coming to me for I suppose 15, 20 years because were going a long time and I brought them up the cheese trolley actually and then they said to me I dont think the cheddar cheese is as good as it used to be and I said I dont think it is either but if you go, its a great thing to get old in some ways, not in all ways, but I remember the RDS used to have a competition for cheddar cheeses, the big rounds at the spring show and one could taste the different ones and I think the best creamery, cheddar cheese probably got a prize or got publicised in some way and I think, I would love to see that restored, if something isnt quite as good as it used to be theres no proper reason for it, its a matter, and I do know who could come and put it right, from England where theyre really good on their cheddar cheese and it could be done. Its the upgrading to gourmet standards which we can easily, easily get and thats what we need. Kevin. Thank you Myrtle. 2 points from that, one is I think Darina will chair the next meeting on education and I think thats really what were talking about, is educating the palette and that gourmet that we need. And also to keep it in the family, Darina is one of the judges at the shop expo cheese competition for creameries next month. So were getting there. we need to finish up, Im already over time so I want to bring it back to the panel, I want to ask the question and if we could be really quick, 1 do we need another model, the direction that were going, weve got a really vibrant artisan industry, but I dont think that it services the middle ground necessarily because again back to ines point, farmers want to be farmers, so do we need another model and what can each of you do if you agree with that, to help and make that happen, not somebody else but you and your organisation. Denis Carroll. Certainly we need another model and Id like to think that we in Ring of Kerry quality lamp are giving a little bit of leadership in that. The first comment, after being involved in it for 2 years, just over 2 years, not to underestimate the amount of work that goes into something like this. I think ines concept of the federation of co-ops, I think is brilliant concept, I think thats maybe where we need a top down approach and what I mean by that is a top down from a resource point of view, that that federation needs to be resourced, the income thats being generated down at co-op level is all needed and definitely that needs to be resourced and I think it would be very wise resourcing done by

21

the department or wherever that money can come from to get this thing going. Just can I pass one comment on the Failte Ireland man, you know Im delighted that you understand what keeps the Ring of Kerry looking like the Ring of Kerry, the problem is that if you drive around that ring, how much local lamb is being served around that ring and I think it is high time that you in Failte Ireland put these people under pressure.

Denis Carroll. I would just finish that comment, that we as farmers are partly to blame for that because we do not market our lamb properly and you know chefs are very busy people and my experience of chefs, if a chef is into good food he will deal with us but if that kitchen is being ran by an accountant he doesnt, but we couldnt get the margin for the butcher and one week, I wont say, we wont let it out of the bag who it is but legs of lamb came down from a factory at a knock down price, he was able to reach his margin that week and we went out the door that week. So thats the reality of business. But what I would say on retailers is, I think theyre very exposed, retailers are dependent on customers, you know people seem to forget that, they might be very powerful but if the people stopped walking in the door theyd be fairly powerless, you know so not for us to underestimate that as farmers and reorganising ourselves and I can guarantee you if we can develop this middle farming concept our phone will start ringing instead of us having to ring them. Kevin. Brilliant point to finish on. Pat Smith. I think theres changes afoot and I want to complement Bord Bia and the brand Ireland concept, you know theres 500 million people in Europe alone, if we can get 50 million people that when they hear the word Ireland they think of a good place to visit and good food, were making progress and I want to encourage Bord Bia to basically develop that because its a win for our commodity, and its a win for our artisan, so I think thats very, very important. And certainly from an IFA perspective, I think its been very useful to hear some of the points thats being made here, well take that back to Dublin, well feed it out into the system and see what we can do to assist because I think the point that Denis made is very important, resources have to be directed towards this, this wont happen on its own and theres going to have to be significant resources and in a world where theres scarce resources and well certainly look in Europe and see what can be achieved there. one point Id ask you to do because I think there as some very, very good points made, Failte Ireland and maybe Michael Ewing as well, this whole concept and idea about the benefit of rural Ireland and the added benefit from a tourism and every other perspective. Theres very important schemes there whether theyre the REP schemes, the AOS schemes, you have the minister here this evening, please dont let the opportunity go amiss that those schemes and the resources that come from those schemes into the farming community are critical, not alone for the viability of small farmers but for the viability of rural Ireland and that message should be left loud and clear to him this evening, thanks very much.

22

Peter Young. Yes I mean I think theres definitely a role for the new model and I mean really farmers have to take control of it themselves. The problem is, I mean one of the issues is that even if all the lamb in Kerry was Ring of Kerry lamb, its probably Irish lamb now, I mean we still need to export a huge percentage of our produce and it is about getting Ring of Kerry, not just in Kerry but maybe in Europe as well and to get farmers to get that model. I mean you look at the federated co-op model, the biggest danger for farmers when they start working together like that, is they see theyre on competition, they see other farmers as competition, they should be all working with each other, you know to step up and you know cooperation, I think Bord Bia are pushing it now and thats important as well. It needs to be resourced. In the journal we are doing it, I mean Ive just finished a doing it together series where I featured Mark and Denis, the Ring of Kerry, to show what's there, farmers need to see what's there, need to see the advantage because once they see an advantage, you know they will get interested and they will start mobilising themselves. Marian Byrne. It started in July but over the next year were running, with Bord Bia and the other agencies, a series of regional food show cases to kind of build food culture in regions. And the other thing were going to do, we really are going to have a fresh go at trying to see how we can promote more the richness and authenticity of traditional foods and to maybe think with Bord Bia of many level approach. Kevin. Is that we need to promote it but we need to make sure that the farmers are getting paid, who are already producing that product, we all know we all love it, farmers are producing it and theyre fantastic at it but theres a gap there and the gap is about giving that control back to the framers, enabling them to give us what we want and for the public to deal with them and bridging that gap there and thats why we need some new model to do that. Marian Byrne. Sorry Id go back to my earlier point about advisory groups, partnerships and that but maybe that all needs to be kind of pulled together a bit more. Kevin. Yeah, thank you, Mark. Mark Winterbotham. I think Ollie hit the nail on the head, this whole template works, but only works if the processes power is actually controlled. If we just look at the pig meat, theres 12 in total processors but the top 5 actually control 85% of what pig meat is produced and the way its produced in Ireland. So from my point of view its about fairness and I think England is trying to introduce it and its an ombudsman for the farmers and also the retailers, to have fair play, to have a good standard of living for everybody, that margins are given to everybody and not just retail.

23

Kevin. Thank you and ine the last word. ine Macken Walsh. Just in general I think most of the panel and indeed members of the audience have pointed to the need for a very bottom up process in how this model becomes reality or how it could become reality and it must be farmer run and farmer owned. And you know the discussion groups that Marian referred to of course are a participatory medium that could carry and make these producer groups a reality. From a Teagasc perspective this project, this model, the middle agriculture was in fact identified from research that identified what were the obstacles to farmers entry into high value added markets in the first instance. And this model was selected because from a socio-cultural point of view of what could actually work among members of the farming community, this model does have promise. And I think the heritage of the methyl (?) as well as cooperative forms in Ireland really give a solid heritage that could be on which this new model could be built. We have a project in Teagasc, a 3 year project that is Teagasc have contributed core research staff to this project to work on it almost full time over a 3 year period from both the advisory and research arms of Teagasc. Teagasc have also funded a 4 year PhD project with the centre for cooperative studies in UCC to explore how this model could be transferred to the Irish case. We also have the Teagasc farm options program, they are holding what are called like town hall meetings, theyre advocating this model, proposing it to the farming community and looking for members of the farming community who are willing to run with this model. So there is and I want to be very clear about that, there is a very strong, dedicated approach from Teagasc in developing this into, over the next 4 or 5 years. Kevin. Thank you very much ine. Sorry that I didnt get to ask more questions from the audience. Like any interesting debate its one that could go on and on but we need to move on. Id like again to thank the panel members, I hope that and I believe that this will create at least some thought, something to go out back into the community with, something that we can engage with over the coming months and years to realise I think what were all agreed on, which is our fantastic produce that we produce in this country and we just need to build a system which brings the benefits down to the farmer so that we continue to enjoy that food

24