Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Compliance with the Nitrates Directive and Implications for Ireland: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I thank all the witnesses for coming in and giving their time. I am very worried. When we see the finishing industry is practically gone, I am only wondering how far away agriculture is from that. One of the questions I have is whether young fellas will want to get involved or invest their lives in agriculture. I see it around the place that I come from. There are many young fellas whose fathers have fine places built up, with sweat and blood and with money they did not have at all, and they are drifting away. I have mentioned in here before that I know one man who had 58 cows and now he says he will have to cut them down to 48. Surely there should be some way of looking after him. There is no livelihood there now when you cut down to that. It was marginal enough as it was. He was doing other things as well. That is one place closed down. There is another fella trying to get going up the road from him. He has a big old place, he got it from the uncle, and he is investing a lot of money in it. He was prepared to build another slatted house to store slurry and he has had an objection to his planning. It is going on now for over a year with a serial objector. He cannot get the basic thing, the planning.

On slurry spreading, they have a different rule altogether in the North of Ireland and that is only over the ditch line. You apply for a permit to spread it in dry weather. We are forced here to wait until it rains and we are flooded and tanks are full. What do they do? They have to spread it. That is one of things. The Government must realise and be honest. Back in 2012 or 2013, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, did away with the quotas and he told fellas to increase the production of milk. They did that, they took off their coats and went at it. Now he disowns that statement. He is still in government but his is disowning that. At that time, he said the Chinese will buy it and it will be the new liquid gold, white gold, he said. Now we find we must cut back our cows and the Chinese are increasing theirs. They are boasting now that they will have over a million extra cows. God almighty, lads.

We had the case all last summer where the Minister for Transport, who is also the Minister for the environment, had a Luas going up and down the city of Dublin painted white with some black writing on it telling us not to drink milk, that it was bad for us. I raised it in the Dáil and I shamed him a few different times. That is the gospel truth, lads. That is what we are up against. I know that all of us here mean well, from the Cathaoirleach down. Our hearts are on our sleeves fighting for farmers.

The only vote we got yesterday in Europe was Luke "Ming" Flanagan, and I salute him. He is from Roscommon where Deputy Fitzmaurice is from. At least he is learning from Deputy Fitzmaurice all the time. To think that the people we vote for voted against the farmers in Brussels yesterday. Where are we going? Like the auld Yanks said long ago, "Man, they said, you can fight them all but you cannot fight city hall." We are fighting a losing battle, lads. It is the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, who put up a case for us to help us to ensure we are getting fair pay, which we are not getting from Europe at the present time. We are not getting it. There are fellas trying to do their best with slurry and they are being prohibited in every way. They will not get grants. They are boasting one day that they will give us a grant and the next day Revenue will come and take the same amount away because they say we are not qualifying. This is what is happening. They are putting a bush in every gap.

You all mean well. I mean well. All these men here and the Cathaoirleach, Deputy Cahill, mean well. I know it and I depend on it. I wish Cathaoirleach, Deputy Cahill, were Minister for agriculture instead of some of the lads they have tried.