“Sinn Féin MEP, Chris MacManus, has raised concerns about how technological change could make starting an agricultural enterprise too costly for the majority of small and younger farmers in Ireland. MacManus, speaking during a debate in the European Parliament on the future of farming, commented:
“Farming will radically change in the coming years with advanced technology becoming commonplace.”
“I would be concerned this will lead to a two-speed transition. Those who can afford the technology with the expertise to operate it and those that don’t, thus creating an ever-widening gap between those competing to produce the majority of our food.”
Speaking after the event MacManus elaborated on the issue: “During the Committee meeting we were presented with a report from the European Commission on the future of agriculture. The report clarified how advanced technologies will be used more and more in every aspect of agriculture.”
“The question must therefore be asked, who is going to pay for this? In every CAP transition, the budget shrinks, which means the likelihood of substantial grants to help farmers access these technologies is only getting smaller.”
“This means young farmers are going to be forced into drawing down loans to the tune of tens if not hundreds of thousands of euro. A lack of access to credit for such technology will likely rival, if not overtake, access to land as the biggest barrier to entering the agri sector. The simple reason for this, is that banks are much more willing to loan money for land purchase, as opposed to purchase of technology, which only depreciates in value as time goes on.”
The Midlands Northwest MEP highlighted concerns of a growing corporate farming model. “I fear the food production industry will become only open to cash rich multinationals. We have seen how Amazon created supermarkets employing almost zero workers, replaced by sensors and machines. “
“I believe in a sustainable future for Irish farmers, striking the balance between quality food production and the restoration of biodiversity. The only way to pursue this is by rejecting the notion that high yields or export numbers are the only important measure of a valuable sector.”
MacManus concluded, “I prefer to measure our success in terms of do we have fair farming incomes, a secured future for young farmers, thriving rural communities and rich and restored landscapes. If technology can play a part in achieving these objectives then I am fully on board but this is not what we have been hearing in our discussions. As an MEP who endeavours to speak on the behalf of rural Ireland, I want to use my role on the Agricultural Committee to place these priorities firmly back on the agenda.”
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