Solving the farm crisis
Across the 26 Counties, thousands of farmers are maintaining a 24-hour picket on 40 beef processing plants. Thousands of workers have been put of out work in the short term because of their action but there seems to be widespread support in rural communities for the farmers' actions.
They recognise that this dispute is not just about the price of beef but a crucial battle for the long-term survival of rural Ireland. Agribusiness in Ireland is a growing, thriving business. Irish food companies are among the largest in Europe. However, farming as a way of life is in decline, with thousands of farmers leaving the industry every year.
Successive governments have ignored the decline of rural Ireland. The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) have lobbied hard on behalf of their members but they have consistently failed to recognise the need of Irish farmers to play a greater role in the businesses their output creates.
The co-operative principle needs to be returned to the heart of Irish farming. The United Farmers Association (UFA) believes that a partnership between the state and farmers in the beef processing industry is a solution to the current impasse. It would help break the cartel of processors who dominate the beef industry and give the farmers control of a vital economic resource.
However, there seems to be little recognition in the IFA leadership of the need to act and plan a strategy for returning control of the agribusiness industry to farmers and their communities and away from business interests driven solely by profit. What point is there having a vibrant farm business if it means having no farming communities? This is the real issue that the IFA and the Dublin Government have to face up to.