John Heney: Farmers are lost in a dark fog of confusion and duplicity

While consumers are increasingly concerned about rising living costs, 2022 has been a truly challenging year for farmers too.

In addition to the dramatic increase in input costs, grass management has been exceptionally difficult this year.

The sunny dry spells this summer were very pleasant, but they came at a price. When the rains returned it was very welcome but the cold nighttime temperatures that accompanied it meant growth remained very disappointing.

Hopefully the recent rise in overnight temperatures will restart growth.

Luckily I have some aftergrass available to supplement my grazing paddocks. This should give my fashionable, species-rich old willow, with its naturally occurring abundance of white clover, additional time to recover before I resume my normal grazing patterns.

I can only guess how my cattle are doing. They look good but like every year I have to wait for the first batch to sell before I really know.

I recently came across the Cognitive Dissonance Theory, attributed to the American social psychologist Leon Festinger. Cognitive dissonance occurs when people and groups try to come to terms with conflicting values ​​that they hold.

This theory can, I believe, go a long way to explaining the dark fog of confusion and ambiguity about the future of Irish farming that is seeping through the corridors of Farmhouse and Dáil Éireann.

It’s hard to understand why ranchers live in the ominous shadow of a great green EU guillotine, given our world-renowned growing climate and fertile soils ideal for weed production.

After the Covid enforced break it was great to return to Grange on the 5th June for the Beef 2022 Open House but how things have changed.

Apparently inspired by changing environmental policies, rather than simply promoting high-performance, cost-intensive systems, entirely new production systems are being considered, particularly from the perspective of biodiversity and efficiency.

The message I received was that the way forward is to produce more for less by adopting more efficient, more sustainable systems that best suit each individual farmer’s circumstances.

Such developments are to be welcomed, particularly in the beef sector with its unsustainable profit margins.

The protection of our natural environment was also given top priority after years of deliberate neglect, with many information stands offering advice.

Unfortunately, it is now left to the hard-working people in our research and advisory services to find ways to undo the confusion and environmental degradation caused by decades of flawed EU agricultural policies.

Much work is being done to reverse years of damage and neglect to our environment.

I must confess, however, that I winced when I saw a large video screen advertising an upcoming open house at Johnstown Castle, proclaiming that we should “cherish our biodiverse grasslands”. It was difficult to reconcile such aspirations with some of what I had heard throughout the day.

Much has certainly been achieved, but it appears that we still have work to do before we fully address unnecessary dissonance in our agricultural policy and the destructive tension and anxiety it is causing among Irish farmers.

John Heney farms in Kilfeackle, Co. Tipperary John Heney: Farmers are lost in a dark fog of confusion and duplicity

Fry Electronics Team

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