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 Is the Agriculture sector broken?

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PostSubject: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:39 pm

Some scary stuff in this paper.

Paper on Dairy from 2000

Agri accounted for 10% of GDP in 1990 compared to 5% in 1999.
So we are obviously buying more food/produce from outside the country. Is this a pricing problem ? Is our home grown just too expensive ?

Some good agri stats here : IFA statistics.

Employment in Agri was 14.9% of total employment in 1990 compared to just 5.5% in 2007.
Employment stats

This sector looks broken to me. Is there any way to fix it ?
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:50 pm

Just lost a completed post after clicking the cursar once on the screen. very bizarre. Will have to come back to this later.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:56 pm

They've been 'rationalising' the sector for a long time now. It simply doesn't make sense to grow food when we can import it cheaper. And before you start about the price of fuel affecting cheap imports we import a lot of our fertilizer as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:03 pm

It arguably doesn't make sense. However, it arguably also makes alot of sense. We have a law in place that says a certain percentage of oil sold in our market must be refined domestically. The reason for this is in order to ensure that a minimal domestic oil refining industry exists in case of national or global emergency. One of the largest arguments on a macro level for CAP is that it ensure self sufficiency in food production for Europe protecting the food supply from external factors. You can apply the same on a micro level. Whilst we don't need cameras and all other gadgets made overseas to survive, we do need food, and therefore it makes sense to ensure that we have an adequate domestic supply of the same. Failure to do so is a lack of foresight in the extreme.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:04 pm

The agriconomists were saying ten years ago that only a few of the best Cork dairy areas could make it profitably on the open market. The rest would need subsidies.

Farm consolidation was expected - bigger farms and fewer of them, but the boom pushed land prices right up and offered farm children warmer and better paid careers - a lot set up small building firms.

The farmers privatised the Co-ops ten years ago and lost their cut in food processing and distribution, which is where the money is (unless they held onto their shares).

It was worrying to see the two chicken firms close down in one month.

The biggest priority for any society should be food security, and that is what the EU was set up for.

With rising oil prices and political and environmental uncertainty, it should be refocused as the top priority at national as well as EU level.

I feel that Ireland, given shipping costs and other factors, should be aiming at self sustainability in food production.

Is it even feasible, given the land and climate we have, for us to produce enough food, with a much lower oil consumption, for our population?
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:10 pm

But lads, if we can't be nationally self-sufficient there's no point going an about it. There's no particular reason to think it can be done.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:13 pm

I would have to disagree with you again. Whilst we may not be able to achieve self sufficiency to the level that we might want it is necessary that we have a level of self sufficiency that we could adequately survive for a period of time. That is the point of the law regarding the refineries. It would not ensure that we had a refinery capacity to enable us all to drive and take two weeks in Malaga. But it does ensure that the country is capable of ticking over for a time.

Not everything is about economics. In fact, most national security concerns are a severe economic burden rather than a benefit.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:18 pm

905 wrote:
But lads, if we can't be nationally self-sufficient there's no point going an about it. There's no particular reason to think it can be done.

Has anyone even looked at it? If not, then there's no reason to think it couldn't be done. In the Second World War Britain had to make an enormous shift to food independence, at a time when a lot of the young male population was not available. Everyone grew stuff everywhere, and there was rationing. The nutrition of the population was better than it has ever had been before or since.

I made a submission to the National Spatial Strategy when it was made eight years ago that the best grade lands should be kept development free (as is the case in most European countries). As far as I know, nothing has been done about it yet.

I wonder if the Department of Agriculture has a plan for the End of Oil?
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:22 pm

Cheap chemically produced bread doesn't necessarily equate into a happy and healthy population. The industrialisation of agri-production may have produced a surplus of cheap (and chemically contaminated) food but it has done nothing to promote health nor provide nutrition on a global-wide basis.

As I quite like bread, I have to shop very selectively in order to find a loaf that will not stay fresh for a week or more, or that actually has a bit of taste. One shouldn't want to cut the crust off a good loaf. Unfortunately most Irish loafs today don't taste much better than the wrappings in which they are packaged.

To think such a basic staple, given our abundance of agricultural land, should become such a bland and chemically concocted commodity says much about the modern industrial mentality.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:38 pm

rockyracoon wrote:
I have to shop very selectively in order to find a loaf that will not stay fresh for a week or more
Have to agree. This ever-fresh bread freaks me out.

rockyracoon wrote:
To think such a basic staple, given our abundance of agricultural land, should become such a bland and chemically concocted commodity says much about the modern industrial mentality.
It's funny that just before opening this thread I was reading on TreeHugger that Obama has been quoting Michael Pollan (author of 'The Omnivore's Dilema' and 'Farmer in Chief'). Anyone who liked the Omnivore's Dilema will take it as a good sign that Obama understands the problem with the argi industry as it is.

Pollan wrote:
the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases.
Pollan wrote:
Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Pollan wrote:
The deliberate contamination of our food presents another national-security threat. At his valedictory press conference in 2004, Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, offered a chilling warning, saying, “I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.”
Pollan wrote:
There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken.

Tip hat to Treehugger, by the way, the selective quotes above is from TreeHugger, not from my own reading of the Farmer in Chief article.

I agree with CF, we have the potential to grow a lot more food here than we are doing. That is partly because of a traditional focus on cattle and sheep rather than vegtables, IMO.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:40 pm

I would say the biggest sign that Ireland's agriculture sector is broken, is that for the past ten years farmers have not primarily been in the business of growing food.

No, their primary business was selling sites.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:46 pm

eoinmn wrote:
I would say the biggest sign that Ireland's agriculture sector is broken, is that for the past ten years farmers have not primarily been in the business of growing food.

No, their primary business was selling sites.

A positive thing about our situation is that a lot of people in Ireland know about farming, at least to the extent of farm holidays as a child, and a lot more have land they can cultivate, including front and back gardens. There is a very small section of the population without gardens, and they could be given allotments to rent. There is a massive amount of underused public land that fruit trees could be planted on. In France, there are cherry trees all along some of the roads, that are cropped every year.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:49 pm

But with the privatising of Co-Ops and the shift to (small scale) property development, is it not fair to say (most) farmers, or at least the IFA, aided this breaking of the system?
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:56 pm

eoinmn wrote:
But with the privatising of Co-Ops and the shift to (small scale) property development, is it not fair to say (most) farmers, or at least the IFA, aided this breaking of the system?

There will be others more expert than me, but everyone was telling them to get out, that it wouldn't be profitable. Making money out of a small farm is not possible in Western Europe. I went on a farm trip around north cork with some farmers from India. I remember one very hard working young farmer we met who quite evidently was only surviving because of his wife's income, although he did not see it that way himself. The Indian visitors couldn't believe that it wasn't possible for many families to make a living off 200 acres of lush pasture.

Farmers sell sites because they can, to send kids to college, to buy a tractor and so on. It's up to us to stop them if we think its wrong. There has been a resounding silence from the Green Ministers on this.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:01 pm

Another thing to note is the reduction of people in farming.

From page two of the white paper in the OP

Number of children between 16-24 living on farms in 1981 was 44,000 compared to 12,000 predicted in 2011.

If, for whatever reason, we do have to ramp up domestic food production, there probably won't be enough people there to do it. At least initially.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:03 pm

cactus flower wrote:
There has been a resounding silence from the
Green Ministers on this.
Well if you can sell sites in the current climate, good luck to you! Very Happy

cactus flower wrote:
Farmers sell sites because they can, to send kids to college, to buy a tractor and so on. It's up to us to stop them if we think its wrong.
Let me expand.. there is nothing wrong with selling sites. I can fully understand when a farmer needs to do this (on a one-off basis) to fund his/her retirement, or something.
But something is broken in the system when site-selling becomes your primary source of income. When you start selling one a year, to keep going.
It is a sign that food is too cheap, or the input costs too high.

While I'm ranting (I've just come from the RTE thread!) why do the IFA protest low food prices outside the Dail??? They should be protesting outside Tesco and Supermacs.
Bunch of wimps.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:31 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
Another thing to note is the reduction of people in farming.

From page two of the white paper in the OP

Number of children between 16-24 living on farms in 1981 was 44,000 compared to 12,000 predicted in 2011.

If, for whatever reason, we do have to ramp up domestic food production, there probably won't be enough people there to do it. At least initially.

This is mainly the decline in family size, but may also be rising age profile of farmers. The latter is a very unhealthy sign, but you will remember that the Government closed down the Retirement Scheme without warning in the Budget, leaving some people in terrible straights having but everything in place for transfer to a son or daughter.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:54 pm

eoinmn wrote:

While I'm ranting (I've just come from the RTE thread!) why do the IFA protest low food prices outside the Dail??? They should be protesting outside Tesco and Supermacs.
Bunch of wimps.

There's no point protesting anywhere if their prices are higher. People will NOT pay more money for basic foods (spuds, sugar,milk etc) just because they are Irish.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:57 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
There's no point protesting anywhere if their prices are higher. People will NOT pay more money for basic foods (spuds, sugar,milk etc) just because they are Irish.
But its not just the consumer price, its the margin.

Also, I think the IFA should be explaining directly to the consumer why they should be prepared to pay more for better quality local food. Rather than whinging that the government won't do this.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:00 pm

cactus flower wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
Another thing to note is the reduction of people in farming.

From page two of the white paper in the OP

Number of children between 16-24 living on farms in 1981 was 44,000 compared to 12,000 predicted in 2011.

If, for whatever reason, we do have to ramp up domestic food production, there probably won't be enough people there to do it. At least initially.

This is mainly the decline in family size, but may also be rising age profile of farmers. The latter is a very unhealthy sign, but you will remember that the Government closed down the Retirement Scheme without warning in the Budget, leaving some people in terrible straights having but everything in place for transfer to a son or daughter.

Is it not also a reduction in farming families ? i.e. bigger farms less families.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:16 pm

Both have had an impact. It would be possible to check it on the C.S.O. site.
The age profile is a big one, as the longer people wait before handing over, the longer the farm is childless. There are a lot of farmers still farming in their 70s and 80s.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:47 pm

http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/national-news/business/banks-reassure-famers-on-availability-of-credit-1520973.html

Just saw this - is the credit crunch going to affect farmers? Worrying thought.
A while back Cael started a very interesting thread on nationalising the land. I didn't expect he'd find many to agree, but surprisingly it was a very open and interesting discussion.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:19 pm

johnfás wrote:
I would have to disagree with you again. Whilst we may not be able to achieve self sufficiency to the level that we might want it is necessary that we have a level of self sufficiency that we could adequately survive for a period of time. That is the point of the law regarding the refineries. It would not ensure that we had a refinery capacity to enable us all to drive and take two weeks in Malaga. But it does ensure that the country is capable of ticking over for a time.

Not everything is about economics. In fact, most national security concerns are a severe economic burden rather than a benefit.
That's fair enough, I was thinking in the long-term as a permanent policy.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:21 pm

cactus flower wrote:
905 wrote:
But lads, if we can't be nationally self-sufficient there's no point going an about it. There's no particular reason to think it can be done.

Has anyone even looked at it? If not, then there's no reason to think it couldn't be done. In the Second World War Britain had to make an enormous shift to food independence, at a time when a lot of the young male population was not available. Everyone grew stuff everywhere, and there was rationing. The nutrition of the population was better than it has ever had been before or since.
Funny that you should mention the war, with practically no fertilizer being imported Irish production plummeted at the time. That's the example I'm using.
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PostSubject: Re: Is the Agriculture sector broken?   Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:52 pm

905 wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
905 wrote:
But lads, if we can't be nationally self-sufficient there's no point going an about it. There's no particular reason to think it can be done.

Has anyone even looked at it? If not, then there's no reason to think it couldn't be done. In the Second World War Britain had to make an enormous shift to food independence, at a time when a lot of the young male population was not available. Everyone grew stuff everywhere, and there was rationing. The nutrition of the population was better than it has ever had been before or since.
Funny that you should mention the war, with practically no fertilizer being imported Irish production plummeted at the time. That's the example I'm using.

If you were told we couldn't import any more food from 2012, what would you say should be done? The question is, how far could be go to becoming self sufficient?

At the moment some lands are overloaded with nitrates. Treated human waste is being used in some areas, but a lot is still being chucked in the rivers. Are there not issues about managing lands and crops to minimise the need for importing fertiliser?
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