Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue kicked off his Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) consultation tour in Castleisland Mart, Co Kerry, on Thursday evening.
Generational renewal, eco schemes, suckler cows and armchair farmers leasing entitlements were the principal theme of the questions aired.
Minister McConalogue acted as both MC and main act for most of the proceedings.
The only other speaker from the Department of Agriculture was Corine Roe.
She said that over 1,000 submissions had been received as part of the CAP consultation and she had read many similar suggestions to those aired in Castleisland on Thursday night.
Perhaps because it was the first event where farmers have had a chance to meet a Minister in a forum like this in almost two years, but those were appreciative of the effort made by him to meet them.
Most questioners began by welcoming him to Kerry and thanked him for taking the time to be there.
A good number also told him it was a marked contrast to his predecessor Michael Creed's approach.
Despite the very short notice, there was a good attendance.
While the questioning was robust and forthright at times, the atmosphere was cordial and the tone conversational.
There was wisecracks aplenty too, but at no point did any one stray from the task at hand.
While there was a handful of questions regarding the nitrates action programme, the evening stayed on track regarding CAP.
Dairy v suckler
A dairy versus suckler debate among the audience raised a little bit of heat, but the Minister quenched the potential fire before it took off.
It threatened to bring to life a concern some agri commentators have that farmers could end up turning on each other and be distracted from the CAP challenge at hand.
Hinting that farmers were viewing the CAP and how it affects their own farm only, he cautioned farmers that they should be aware of the challenges other farmers face as a result of some of the proposals they were putting to him.
In response to the armchair farmer debate and the practice of leasing entitlements, the Minister said he wanted to support the farmers who are doing the work.
Generational renewal and the need to avoid land abandonment in areas that are challenging to farm in got a good airing.
Farmers felt a well-funded accessible environmental scheme was needed in those areas.
The converting of basic payments to a form of a pension was also put forward as a suggestion when it came to a retirement scheme.
Turning the tables
On occasion, the Minister put it back to the farmers to see what their solutions to the concerns they raised were.
One example of this was when the issue of forgotten farmers was raised by Neilus O’Connor from Moyvane and the Minister asked him how he would solve it.
O’Connor’s suggestion was for a top-up on entitlements for a five-year period plus access to 60% TAMS for the same period for farmers who missed out on young farmer top-ups in the previous CAP.
The next venue on the CAP consultation tour is Corrin Mart, Fermoy, Co Cork, on Friday 17 September at 4.30pm. Word is that the next stop is on home soil in Donegal late next week.
The Minister plans to visit every county to meet with farmers and hear directly from them as part of process.
Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan must be submitted to the EU before 1 January 2022 in order to have the new CAP in place for January 2023.