October 14, 2009

We must make farming part of 'smart economy'

Posted in Ireland · 190 comments ·

The other day, while travelling by train to an interesting conference organised by Network Ireland in Westport, I was struck by just how lush our country is. Field after field of well irrigated, arable land suggested that we are probably not touching close to our agricultural potential and that is despite the fact that agriculture is still our biggest indigenous industry.

Having spent much of this year in the dry arid desert of Western Australia and the intensively cultivated rural hinterland of China, where land and food supply are crucial to keeping the economic miracle fed, it seemed to me that agriculture will play a significant part in any recovery.

Think about it. The world’s population will increase to nine billion by 2050 from 6.8 billion today. Someone has to feed these people. Over the past few years the yields in agriculture have remained stable. Having exploded throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with the green revolution, and its intensive use of oil-based fertiliser, yields are now growing at only 1pc a year.

As we saw two years ago, when the price of oil rises, because we use so much oil-based fertiliser, the price of food rises too and in many cases very rapidly. This led to food riots in over a dozen countries before the financial crisis diverted our attention. But the link between food and oil prices hasn’t gone away.

For a few months, as the world faced a global meltdown, the price of oil collapsed simply because there was no demand and, technically, there was another issue because some of the hedge funds that had driven the prices through the roof had to sell, and sell quickly. But oil prices didn’t stay low for long. They are creeping back upwards now and the price of crude is $74 a barrel — nine times what it was a decade ago.

As the world economy recovers, this will once again become a dominant issue. This also means that, from a cost basis, the price of food, even without billions of new mouths to feed, will rise.

Now, superimpose the population forecast of the UN on this cost structure and we can see that the world is facing a new food crisis.

In fact, odd as it may sound to a generation used to pictures of starvation in Africa, Africa could feed the world in the next 50 years. If you doubt this, think of Ireland. In one generation we went from famine to plenty in this country. Clearly there were other factors at play, but increases in yields as well as depopulation played a role.

Around the world, there are a few huge growth areas, where investment could dramatically raise yields. The former breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine, has huge potential. The former Soviet Republic has 30pc of the world supply of chernozem soil, rated the most productive in the world. However, corruption and under-investment have caused chaos in Ukrainian agriculture in the past decade.

So what does this mean for Ireland? Well, it means the biggest industrial opportunity for decades for large Irish agricultural firms. We have the know-how, the technology and the connections with the rest of the world to create a giant agricultural multinational, which invests in land in places like Ukraine and Africa and helps the people of these countries.

Think about Africa, someone is going to invest there and reap huge financial as well as moral rewards, why not us? This is a chance to get on the right side of a huge opportunity which we now are certain will emerge and Enterprise Ireland could be well served focusing on agricultural companies as any others. Interestingly, the number of companies involved in agriculture and food featured in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year this year has more than doubled.

In terms of what we are doing at home, although there is huge merit in focusing on small artisan farming as represented by groups like ‘Good Food Ireland’, the facts about the decline in farming can’t be overlooked. There are currently 138,200 family farms in the country, average size 32.3 hectares. But by 2015, it is predicted that there will only be 40,000 full-time farmers in the country — compared with 230,000 full-time farmers in the 1970s. And only 13pc of Irish farmers are under 35.

Future market needs will be for fewer, larger, more intensive farms. In 2008, agriculture accounted for 10pc of Ireland’s exports and 8.5pc of employment, so it is still a huge, if declining industry.

Recently the Green Party has suggested making Ireland GM free. While there are many who might see this as a positive move, one of the disadvantages of this is that we cut ourselves off from technological innovation, which might cause yields to rise.

The most significant point, as our farmers take to the roads again, is that they should be listened to. Far too much economic debate in this country has been focused on the next big thing. With the world’s population doubling, farming is part of “the smart economy”.

Ireland could be a player in this boom on an international level as our existing companies go looking for opportunity in Africa and beyond and we could do more to make our farmers here feel that there is a future in the game.

Once a farmer stops farming it is a very difficult thing to rediscover; skills are lost as are contacts and what many call, the “feel for the land”.

Just as the world is about to enter an agricultural boom, it would be a shame if we presided over the gradual strangulation of our agriculture. Then again, given the lack of foresight in this country, it would be typical of us to fail to see the opportunity and end up having no agricultural capacity, just when the rest of the world is crying out for it.

  1. mediator

    Good Article David

    You’ve managed to highlight what is going to be a key issue over the next few years.

    Now ask yourself the following question?

    “How come farming is in crisis in many parts of the EU with large areas of arable land left vacant and unproductive?”

    I’ll try an answer and it goes something like this.

    When people see something that doesn’t make sense (such as a country like Ireland with some of the most fertile land in the world letting a lot of it lie idle or close to idle) they cry “this is a mistake, why doesn’t somebody (read the EU or government do something)”

    They’re missing the point. The EU and its agent the Government have been steadily passing laws and regulation in a way that is DESIGNED to have that effect.

    Farming is in crisis because that is what the EU bureaucrats want. The aim is to drive people off the land and ensure that they are as far from being self sufficent as possible and therefore depend on the government or the EU for their daily bread. They then become more controllable. The aim is also to allow food to become controlled by large agribusiness which causes problems of its own.

    Another aim is depopulation. You say that Africa could be a breadbasket. Rest assured David that the powers that be do not want to see this happen.

    There are some quite startling things going on in world agriculture and the results are going to become manifest in the next decade.

    Check out the following film if anyone is interested in this stuff.


  2. Lius

    Both David and mediator are correct in the short-term, however in the long term oil will run out and no continent or large agribusiness will be able to distribute food and feed the world.

    Therefore the long-term survival of nations (plus long term business opportunities) are in feeding ourselves locally, especially as an isolated island nation with little fuel resources. Feeding ourselves of course is not good economics at this time as it is cheaper to import food. To go down the self-sufficiency road now would not be viewed as a smart investment but as ratings of a crazy man much like what was said about David when he said the property/construction bubble would burst.

    BTY I’m not from the Na Glasraí (Vegetable Party as Calamity Coughlane called them).

  3. EU policy is to make the island of Ireland more or less a National Reserve for indigenous tribes only suitable for Safaries by Continentals and all under the aegis of Tourism .
    And our seas likewise using their offshore technology to exploit our reserves.
    The laws of Ireland will be surpassed by the Laws of Napoleon .

  4. All this happened before .Originally we had our native Brehon Laws that originated from Egypt only to be surpassed by The Common Laws – from England ( that included a plantation in Ireland too as many of us only arrived then ) this will now be followed by the Laws of Napoleon ( and another plantation as we are already witnessing names ending with …..ski…..ov…..ova ….orz….cin….etc ) .
    What this means is Control of National Resources lies in the Laws of Ireland ( not Irish Laws) and when these change so does the Control move to a foreign land.Our RIGHTS are slowley being eroded .

  5. MK1

    Hi David,

    Agriculture in Ireland is an interesting sector to analyse and oft-overlooked as it is seen as declining and backward and our history rather than our future. Its a diffcult sector to export (products and services).

    Lets look at the general trends. Agriculture productivity has been steadily rising per hectare for all types of farming practices and with increased mechanisation and production. This simply means that the amount of land needed to provide an ‘employee’ (farmer) with income is increasing all the time. That means the number of farmer workers are reduced.

    However, food processing has become more elaborate (think microwave dinners!) so more workers are needed in that part of the food suply chain (from field to stomach).

    Exporting product and artisan/gourmet products is one thing, but exporting our expertise using Africa or Ukraine as a ‘factory’ is completly different, and much much harder. Indeed, when eastern European states joined the EU many attempted to use cheap land in Poland, etc. There were success but to run it as a business remotely is difficult. The succesful ones had to decamp to the ne county. This ends up in us exporting people.

    Its the same with some other areas of expertise, such as construction. Were we able to export our architects, engineers, workers, etc? No, and clearly not as quickly as was required.

    Whilst I do agree that we could certainly do a lot with agri/food and should continue to develop it going up the value chain to increase high value output per hectare (think market gardening), I dont think we can participate in a Ukraine or Africa-based food factory. Besides, I dont think our expertise is in anyway special.

    The EU has protected the EU agri businesses with CAP and trade rules, etc, agriculture is not a freely and openly traded marketplace, and with that we have inefficiencies and laziness. As farmers incomes are eroded bit by bit (if they cant keep incerasing productivity), we will only see protest after protest. And large companies running farms have ran into difficulties as well, so I dont blame the farmers.

    Now, where’s my galtee cheese ….. we all need to eat, so agri/food certainly wont go away !!



    The late Ray Crotty wrote eloquently about the problems facing Irish agriculture.The EC destroyed most of Irish farming-look @ the amount of food imported from Holland,UK ETC.We lack economies of scale and are too expensive relative to New Zealand, Argentina etc.Food processing has never really taken off.

    • Philip

      Explain FYFFES bananna ripening operation then :)

      • Garry

        Thats easy philip…. its manufacturing!

        i believe they successfully applied to have this categorized as manufacturing for tax purposes…

        • Tim

          Garry, that is correct. Fyffes imports “raw material” in the form of inedible green, unripe bannanas. They warehouse them until they are ripe and edible, so they have turned an inedible raw material into an edible fruit by their actions, hence “manufacturing”.

          Taxes are lower for manufacturing profits than many other sectors.

  7. john30

    Food supply for the worlds growing population is going to be one of the most important matter for governments in the future. World trade and supply of food can bring benefits to ourselves such as year round supply of any food that you desire at an affordable cost. Yet for poorer countries, such as many african nations, exportation of their food can leave their populations unable to afford it. Supply and demand. Irish farming is in a crisis with nearly all farm comodities being produced at below cost, while supermarkets earn record profits. This needs to be looked at seriously if we wish to have a sustainable agriculture indusrty in the future. Good to see your not ignoring us boggers David!!

  8. If you want to produce agricultural goods you must in the same breath sell them too.This is the mistake the Irish Farmers made in the early 70′s they privatised their marketing of their products thus the coops remained production units only .In addition Coras Trachtala ( export bord) were negligent with registering the trade mark of the Shamrock in Germany and a German company took advantage of that and now its theirs .Now you cannot sell Irish Food in Germany using a Shamrock anymore.
    Bord Bainne ( Irish Milk Bord ) are a sloppy organisation and self centered with only their personal vested interest in mind.They only do what is easy despite their resources available to them.Primarily they only sell dairy commodities without the added value and many former employees have replicated the same process and creamed lots of profits in due course .Its so easy and without any conscience for the well being of their own country.It’s more greed and cute hoorism.I have seen how they sell into Egypt and middle east and all the good are grant aided by EU . Even Sadam Hussain bought much of these products only to sell on again and make personal profits.
    Where is the national conscience and what are the farmer leaders doing about their marketing?

    • Deco

      John Allen – I have a story that captures the essence of the problem with Bord Bainne.

      An Irishman was buying coal from the Russians in the 1990s, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet economy and the rouble. Coal was produced in massive quantities, and could be transported to St. Petersburg very cheaply. It was more expensive in the West. Usually payment was in US Dollars. Then the Russians told him they wanted a barter. They wanted butter for the coal. This was a massive volume of trade. A lot of coal. And a lot of butter. So he phones up An Bord Bainne – because this was during the last recession, and Ireland was trying to get itself in order – and there were millions of tons of butter being produced in Ireland. And most of it went into EU intervention. So he flies into Dublin, and goes straight to An Bord Bainne HQ (which I think is in D2).

      And An Bord Bainne – ask “who are you ?”.So he explains the entire deal. And he tells them that the Russians will pay in US Dollars. The Russians can give the Irish the money up front or via an intermediary if they want. And An Bord Bainne dismiss him on the basis that they have never done

      Now this is hilarious. Even more ridiculous was the sight of Albert Reynolds on the tarmac in Shannon trying to arrange a meeting with a sozzled Boris Yeltsin in AeroFlot one, in order to do a deal.

      My point is that An Bord Bainne are as organized as FAS or the HSE. The same culture of laziness and ineptitude.

      It has not got to the stage that most of the dairy co-operatives bypass An Bord Bainne.

      An Bord Bainne are an organization for taking levies off the Dairy Industry, and using the proceeds to employee the beneficiaries of Ireland’s nepotism culture.

      Get rid of An Bord Bainne. It is just another useless quango. If the co-operatives and the farmers had the levies back they would deliver better results and not employ useless idiots who happen to be related to Government Ministers.

      • Deco

        I should clarify. Basically the Russians would place the dollars on account until the barter deal was done and the Irishman would get his coal, and he would pay An Bord Bainne. For An Bord Bainne it was a done deal.

        So then the Irishman phoned tried to get in contact with one of the Irish Dairy Co-operatives. But the Irish Co-operatives could not deal with him – because they were pro-hibitted by law from exporting butter unless it went through An Bord Bainne. In essence An Bord Bainne were the gatekeeper. Ireland is dominated by gatekeepers. And in essence he could not get Irish butter. He was intensely annoyed.

        At this stage the Russians wanted the deal sorted. So he called Fonterra, the New Zealand Dairy Co-operative’s London office. They asked for an immediate fax of the order. The fax arrived. And 20 minutes later he got the order confirmation.

        The message was very simple. Even Irish people cannot help this country, when other Irish people in Irish institutions are structured to effectively screw it up.

        And something else. It is glaringly that is as glaringly evident, as Roy Keane’s famous mantra “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Except in Ireland’s case, the institutions plan the ineptitude. We should not be surpised.

        If you hire clowns, you end up running a circus. Thanks to Ireland’s nepotism problem, the entire state system promotes the biggest clowns to the best positions. Is it any surprise that FAS, CIE, the HSE, aBB, etc,, are circus operations ?

        And another thing, that is extremely evident.

        New Zealand means business. But Ireland means bullshit.

      • G

        I’d have to agree with this, the biggest problem is not the recession but the attitude of the people here.

        I have several recent experiences which left me scratching my head, its like the Irish enjoy suffering and moaning, wallowing in victimhood.

        Struck me as very odd, and not the dynamic environment that everyone keeps patting themselves on the back about.

        Our eye is off the ball and has been for years, coasting on construction and MNC, looking to others to create the jobs, slave mentality, pisses me off.

  9. correction- ‘ they privatised the marketing of their products by selling on to their coop shares to the control of third party shreholders who were not farmers or producers ( usually were engineers and accountants) .Thus the farmers were left with selling a commodity item namely milk and live cattle and with a producer margin profit only and denying themselves a mark up on their value added product that they sold in the first place’Thus reason why Kerrygold is a world leader for private investors only and not farmers .

  10. Malcolm McClure

    Since the Global Irish Economic Forum has been discussed extensively on this blog, it is timely to consider its recommendations. These are now published at :
    To start the ball rolling, I am rather concerned that in para 7 they lump together something that is highly desirable, like intellectual property protection, with the highly controversial suggestion that Ireland could be a test bed for clinical trials. ie a convenient source of human guinea pigs.
    In other countries it is usually those who are at their financial wits end who submit to these experiments.
    Just Google ‘clinical trial death’ and read about the risks.
    Ireland has gained a lot from pharmaceutical manufacturing, so it is likely that those companies will be lobbying hard to get Harney’s support to obtain convenient subjects to test their products on. I’m just not sure that DMcW should be endorsing those proposals.

    • Original-Ed

      I see that one of the guys on a discussion panel there is a well known political animal and bullshitter – you wont go very far with him!

  11. Farming is a commodity and farmers must restart again what their forefathers did at the time of The Free State and begin the formation of COOPS with the responsibility and CONTROL primarily in the hands of the producers .I have no respect for any Irish Farmer because of their irresponsiblity in making a short term share gains when they relinquished full control of what their forefathers worked so hard for to make ,only to lose it again foolhardily. They threw out the baby with the bath water believing their laurels were in EU Grants forever.What is the point of producing when they will always lose because they are short sighted and without a regulated collective management for their own well being as a producer community.
    Once bitten twice bitten.
    Farm production will always be relegated as a loss making activity and who is to blame …only themselves .

    • wills

      Rather dubious to say of it. Try this one on for size, page 13 of document, page title, medium term objectives, No.4, ‘develop greater promotional focus on Irelands unsung capabilities, IMMUNOLOGY!!!!!!!!! Nuts.

      • wills


        my post above is for MAlcolm Mclure at 12.

      • Malcolm McClure

        Wills: Perhaps we could get U2 to compose a song in praise of our Unsung immunology capabilities?
        In the context of farming, No.7 is a timely warning against jumping on bandwagons; “Ensure that proposed sectoral opportunities in the green sector are real, deliverable and sustainable before positive consideration is given to financing.”

  12. Philip

    I have always believed that farming was a prime example of a knowledge economy undertaking. I have come across masters of process engineering in large hi tech manufacturing facilities that came from a farming background and who had an inate sense of process organisation in a large operation. The problem we have in Ireland is one of ignorance and an inability to look beyond the glamour and glitz of disneyland Sci Fi nonsense.

    Farming in Ireland is seen as a dirty and dangerous profession with little support with only tradition acting as its mainstay. It is in fact quite the most sophisticated form of industrial activity one could ever undertake and we need to glaromise it as such – much in the same way as the French glamourise Science and technology.

    I will even go so far as to say that it should be forbidden to allow foreign operators work on our land for any agricultural purposes. This is for me the trie source of getting employment back on its feet and correctly focused on Farming for the 21st and 22nd Century.

    • Philip

      Free education for all aspiring Aengineers and scientists if they work in the agcultural area for more than 5 years after graduation – otherwise – you pay your fees in full. The time for pussy footing has passed

  13. wills

    In my viewpoint, farming is about food first, profits second. Unfortunately not enough people farm for food first.

    Also, FRANKEINSTEIN FOODS will poison and kill.

    Thirdly, farming by it’s very nature is all about abundance. Look at the amount of apples one can pick off one apple tree.

    Fourthly, before a society considers producing more food off the land, better first too stop the waste of food before producing more quantities. Food is wasted on a colossal scale and i suspect excessive food wastage in a community is bad news on the karma of a society overall.

    Food wastage is an area i think deserving of serious consideration in relation to the long term prospects of a society.

    As we all know the EEC CAP resulted in food mountains and subsidies for framers providing income without having to climb out of bed. Bad idea. Farming becomes debased and before long farming ethics and integrity go out the window. All one has to do is see how quick farmers sold land to property speculators.

    Some people farm ethically and some run a farm like it is a business looking for profit for profit sake. And with the latter we arrive into a centralised super state by lawing and regulating all farming activity into a money making machine whereby food looses it’s inherent identity as a life giving sacred gift and is handled like it is there to make profit on. Not a good idea i think for food to become industrialised, commodified.

    That’s not to say farming should stay in the stone age, or, technology should play on role alongside farming.

    David, if farming is to be reinvigorated i say, lets, steer clear of agribusiness and fix the food wastage alongside. No excuse for food wastage.

    It’s just not good enough to say lets produce more food when so much food goes down the plughole. We can do better than that.

    • Lorcan

      David, good article (as usual).

      Haven’t commented here in a while, but Wills, I feel I have to reply to your post.

      “In my viewpoint, farming is about food first, profits second. Unfortunately not enough people farm for food first.”

      Yes, farming is about producing food, but it is also about doing it for profit. If there is no profit (either from market prices or the cheque in the post) in farming then there will be no farmers. And no farmers = no food.

      “Also, FRANKEINSTEIN FOODS will poison and kill.”

      I take it by Frankenstein foods you mean GM foods. I would love to see the research you base this statement on. Seriously. I am a fan of GM foods, as I think they are the lesser of two evils. More food (through GM) or more people starving through lack of food. Choice seems fairly easy. For example, thanks to GM research wheat can now be grown that is drought resistant, and trials are currently underway on rice that will grow in salt water. Such advances have the chance to have a material effect on world hunger, and who are we to ban them because of some ill thought out , short-sighted ideology?

      “Thirdly, farming by it’s very nature is all about abundance. Look at the amount of apples one can pick off one apple tree.”

      Farming by its very nature is a struggle. The only reason that one can pick so many apples from an apple tree is because the tree has been forced through generations of breeding (or genetic modification, if you like) to produce more and larger apples. Left to its own devices, nature does not tend to do abundance.

      “Fourthly, before a society considers producing more food off the land, better first too stop the waste of food before producing more quantities.”

      Completely agree. But we’ll probably only start to value food when it becomes properly expensive..

      “As we all know the EEC CAP resulted in food mountains and subsidies for framers providing income without having to climb out of bed.”

      You’re confusing two different problems here, the food mountains of the 1980s lead to the introduction of quotas across a range of products. The CAP’s job was to guarantee a income level for farmers to stop the flight from the land that has, none the less, happened. Since the 1990s much of the CAP’s objective has been to reduce capacity, if you are going to curtail output then surely it is only fair that you compensate them for loss of earnings? Hence the cheque in the post. It is a far from perfect system though.

      “All one has to do is see how quick farmers sold land to property speculators.”

      Again, I would like to see some evidence to support this. If farmers were so quick to sell, then why did prices go so high? Most farmers I know (including myself) would rather sell their mothers than sell their land.

      “Some people farm ethically and some run a farm like it is a business looking for profit for profit sake.”

      Are you saying that profit is unethical? Farming is a business, if it doesn’t make a profit then it can’t survive. I am unsure what you think ethical farming is, but from what you say, I can only presume that an ethical farm is an empty farm.

      If a farmer does not keep pace with technological advances then he will not be maximising the production from his land. And that, Wills is the biggest waste of all.

      I do agree about the food waste though..

      • wills

        Lorcan. Appreciate the feedback.

        1: I was going to say ‘profit for profit’ sake but i thought posters have heard me say that so many times. It’s accepted that profit is essential for incentive.

        2: On FRANKENSTEIN FOODS, i mean FRANKEINSTEIN FOODS. And if one requires further specification, ok, GM would fall under FRANKEINSTEIN FOODS, oh yes most definitely.

        On the ‘people starving’ agenda for GM let me say this,(and i would love to go further on this in detail, but have agreed to stay in ambit of DMcw’s articles), the idea that GM advocates and moreso corporates who have all the profits to make on it, is the ‘ol, but there are people starving. I say, if one is so concerned about people starving then one ought too focus on solutions for the here and now.

        Also, GM and FOOD do not go together. That’s not my fault. I know it is a moneymaker, but, so is harvesting organs.

        Also, the onus is not on me to provide evidence to the contrary, the onus is on the FRANKEINSTEIN FOOD proponents to prove, over and over again to the satisfaction of a child that GM has zero negative impact on food, our ecosystem and our health.

        ALso, GM is not an advance it is a perversity of science and born of the hand of cavemen.

        Also, food mountains where a result of interference in the market dynamics,

        You cannot be serious asking me evidence for farmers selling out to property developers. Go to east dublin and around the country, Google it.

        Profit for profit sake i’m asserting is unethical and immoral.

        I never said ‘an ethical farm’.

        I did say technology can go hand in hand with farming in a symbiotic relationship, will be more concise next time. Technology is a good thing. And using it to enhance farming is a good thing. But, like everything in life, one must exercise judgement and moderation to secure optimal benefits for oneself and the common good.

        Appreciate Lorcan your feedback, hope i’ve opened a door for reevaluation, in particular, in relation to GM FOODS.

        GM is ‘playing god’.

        • wills

          Whhps, lorcan, east dublin should read west dublin, and north and south.

        • Lorcan

          Wills, thank you for your considered reply.

          It seems we have little common ground on the GM issue. (excuse the pun).

          My views on GM are based on the possibility that GM may provide a solution to the future problem (which David outlined in his article) of feeding a 50% population increase in a generations time.

          If you feel necessary to dismiss it on ideological/theological grounds, so be it. But I would rather try a little pragmatism.

          • wills

            Lorcan, no problem lorcan.

            I’ve no doubt you are well intended lorcan, but, with the utter most respect can i suggest that GM and feeding starving people are not linked. It is bogus my dear man. I trust you forward it with heartfelt and meaningful motive lorcan but on the point of fact my viewpoint is that GM and feeding the starving ending up coupled together stinks to high corporate propaganda.

            What grounds do i refute in full GM foods. On the grounds that GM is ‘playing god’.

      • Malcolm McClure

        Lorcan said: “Most farmers I know (including myself) would rather sell their mothers than sell their land.”
        If you weren’t around, Lorcan, you may have missed the exchange I had with Garry in the Green bubble blog last week.
        “….PERFECT….There speaks the voice of real Ireland. A reprise of Richard Harris in ‘The Field’.
        David is mistaken when he says we are addicted to money. We Irish are addicted to real estate. Nothing must compromise that obsession. It is a primal urge, far more deeply felt than hunger, or sex, or education or faith. Certainly, the notion of general public welfare comes far down the scale.
        With that priority we have got the government we richly deserve.”
        Farming in Ireland is basically tribal willy-waggling rather than a commercial enterprise. No Irish farmer could remain in business next year if subsidies were completely withdrawn. Their only hope would be to return to subsistence agriculture, leasing plots for allotments, horticulture for garden centres etc.
        In a global economy the Irish climate and topography cannot compete on a level plying field at raising crops against the Prairies and the Ukraine for grain crops and against Africa for vegetables (given political stability there.)
        It can only survive raising cattle for half the year when the grass is growing as half the ground is needed to raise fodder for the winter months. This can never compete with Argentina and the llanos of Colombia and Venezuela where the grass grows throughout the year. (Again given political stability and a global economy.)
        By depending on GM crops to improve profitability you are enslaving yourself to the producers of GM seed.
        The global economy impoverished irish farmers in Victorian times except during wars.
        You cannot have a viable Irish agricultural economy in peacetime without massive subsidies. That means that taxpayers must pay twice for the food they eat.

        • wills

          Malcolm McClure.
          The land determines the type of farming and in Ireland it is dairy farming more or less, with pigs and sheep for good measure, as you are aware.

          I think the bowzee irish farmer would sell his mother, his land, his children and his country down the river for the right price.

          And in Ireland, the bowzee farmer is in abundance.

          And i suspect they would jump over a pig on a cows back for GM seeds if the price was right.

        • Lorcan

          Malcolm, perhaps I engaged in a little hyperbole when I said that!

          But yes, your point is well made, the Irish obsession with ‘the land’ is nonsense.

          But, we have to look at where we are, and where/what we want to be.

          If we want the Irish countryside to be a theme-park of artisan farmers, then fair enough, but we have to be willing to pay for it. Or we can encourage farm consolidations and more intensive farming leading to lower unit costs and higher yields.

          Perhaps the ideal lies somewhere between the two, some industrial farming, some traditional ‘family farms’.

          But, as David’s says in his conclusion, we do need to decide what we want to be.

          • wills

            Lorcan, can i jump in there. Farming is not all about making decisions on making money. Money making is second, the growing of the food is paramount, then, we seem to be agreed upon. A1.

            I think the topographical nature of the land here in Ireland gears the farming toward simple farming models. The farmers in Ireland be better well rewarded following the lie of the land, common sense, respect for the animals is key too.

            One looks at the intensive farming of chickens and we end up with battery farms and this is caveman farming. Now it’s argued people want cheap chickens, and so the battery farm is justified. This is an artificial argument though.

        • Garry

          You haven’t met my mother Malcolm… :)

          a few things

          1 yeah, agriculture in Ireland is not going to compete without subsidys… ever… certainly not at anything like the minimum wage for those involved….

          2 those who have never farmed have no idea just how hard work farming is…. thats why the growers around dublin are kept going with eastern european labour, its all mexicans working in California etc….

          3 Its worth remembering that CAP was born from the memories of a continent where hunger was commonplace after WWII (and for centuries before)…

          4 The game may have changed but our major challenges are like a throwback to the middle ages…. food security, energy security and climate change… “if your not cold hungry or in pain…” all we need is a return of rabid religion to bring it all back…

          5 True there are subsidy farmers… but heres a fact… who is the biggest subsidy farmer in Ireland….. Greencore… look it up in the farm payments section on the Dept of Agriculture….
          I would have no problem with farm payments being capped, I think they are unbalanced… theres people with a few hundred acres getting a lot of money for doing nothing which isnt right…

          This may mean the EU secures food supplies by growing more locally or guaranteeing foreign cheaper supplies… whatever, we’ll still have a plan B.

          There are still the potato ridges in a field at home where my forefathers died on their knees… That was one of the reasons for my reaction to your suggestion last week… which I regard as theft followed by extremely stupid short term thinking.

          My fear is that we will return to a being a nation of tenants renting our country back but this time from the banksters and wealth funds…. just at the time when energy and food security becomes critical…

          It may be a pesant mentality but fuck it…. I think the powers that be could do with thinking long term now and again.

          Build 2 nuclear reactors, let the banks swing, reduce farm payments along with all public sector wages and let the global situation look after itself…but remember whats important….. if you’re not cold, hungry or in pain…..

          Instead its the NAMA business plan… buy paper from banks, give 4 billion to developers to finish offices that will never be sold, bury it for a few years and blame all the losses on the next government….

          • Malcolm McClure

            Larry: Just two points regarding my suggestion last week:

            1. If your property is within the 60% of all properties in Ireland dealt with by the Land Commission since 1903 you will find that the State owns the mineral rights under your property. That includes everything up to the foundations. If those minerals weren’t there, your house would fall into a VERY deep hole in the ground. The government can charge ground rent for merely preventing that unlikely occurrence.
            If you are included in the lucky 40% to which this doesn’t apply, it will say so on your deeds.

            2. 50% of all Irish properties are held under mortgage. The bank holds those deeds, and they form part of the bank’s capital base, valued at an amount that only the bank knows.
            Therefore we have already returned to being a nation of tenants, except, instead of calling it rent, they call it mortgage payments.

      • paddythepig

        Since the 1990s much of the CAP’s objective has been to reduce capacity, if you are going to curtail output then surely it is only fair that you compensate them for loss of earnings?

        For what other business would it be fair to compensate the producer for not over-producing? I don’t think this is fair.

        It’s interesting to see the recent reawakening of the allotment movement. This is a democratic and positive development. It reaquaints many people with the land. A future model diluting the ‘family farm’ model if need be, whereby tens of thousands of ordinary people can get involved, and purchase their little plot in the countryside, would be a good thing.


        • Malcolm McClure

          paddythe pig: subsidies, quotas and set-asides are mechanisms to distort the marketplace of capitalism, to subvert competition, to keep bureaucrats in cushy jobs in Brussels and to keep middlemen like Tesco and the large abbatoirs creaming the profit between producer and consumer. They have nothing to do with quality, taste of produce, or fair price in the marketplace.

          • paddythepig

            “subsidies, quotas and set-asides are mechanisms to distort the marketplace of capitalism, to subvert competition”

            I agree with you Malcolm. These are all market distortions.

            It’s interesting to see the expansion of farmer’s markets, which presumably cut out the middlemen totally ; people seem to like them.

            Must say I have little sympathy for the farmers. They did extremely well for a very long time under CAP, they own the most valuable asset of all – land, and they seem to think they have the divine right to bring the country to a standstill, block towns, they never stop whinging. A lot did very well selling off sites and land for development during the boom, their kids were all sorted with ‘sites’ and cheap housing. They always have the option to sell and do something else, but as Lorcan correctly pointed out most of them would sell their mothers before selling their land.

            I hope to see a time in the future where millions of Irish people can participate with their own little piece-in of land ; it might bring people back to their senses and wean them off their obsession with the quick buck, the flashy car, the SUV, their growing their property portfolio, and all that malarky.

            Hard labour digging with a blunt spade for Bertie, Seanie, Neary et al?


          • wills

            Spot on malcolm.

        • wills

          Well said paddy, agreed, completely.

  14. wills : your prose above is a far cry from the usual bombardment you constantly feed us. No offense intended.Its hard to believe its the same writer.

    • wills

      JohnALLEN. No offense taken. I’m quite thick skinned. The ‘bombardment’ i suppose is a prose style really on a specific topic, John ALLEN and not a reflection of the personage

  15. Short Departure

    Moon Wobble – this is aspected on Monday 19th so become very tuned to everything around you.
    I think it is – BLACK MONDAY

  16. VincentH

    Nothing at all to do with the Corn Laws and the access of Canadian wheat to the GB market.

  17. Tim

    Folks, while I appreciate the main idea in DMcW’s article, essentially that Agriculture is a hugely under-utilised resource in Ireland, there are myriad problems that have been super-imposed on the sector; or have inter-posed themselves between true agriculture and its market.

    “Co-op”, though a fine idea at inception, has become a misnomer: the co-operatives have been caught engaging in price-fixing (on milk and chicken, for example) and nothing has been done about it; there was even a PrimeTime special on it by the state broadcaster. A Business-profiteering mentality has taken over the original ideals of the co-op. The middle-men between farm and mouth (to paraphrase MK1), the co-ops, food companies and retailers, have squeezed the farmers into low producer-prices and squeezed the consumer into high retail prices.

    This also involves the same old crony-capitalism stuff that we see in the political/business/banking class in Ireland and the EU. These elites have conspired, for the purpose of profit and luxury for themselves, against the farmers and the consumers of the country and the world. Remember the butter/beef/vegetable mountains of the EU, even as the Russians and Africans starved? GM foods are not required in order to feed the world — they are required for the companies who own the patents to make a short-tern fortune and to hell with the potential long-term damage to the ecosystem. Lorcan and wills are both right, from different vantage-points, but neither is entirely “correct”, I think (though I cannot claim to know all the answers myself, because so much is hidden from us in the background by the cronies and price-fixers and politicians in Ireland and Europe, engaging in their market-interferance). I watched a TV show last week where Richard Corrigan railed against the fact that an Irish farmer ended up ploughing his Rhubarb crop back into the ground because he could not gain a sufficient price for his crop. Waste, wills?

    At the other end of the “chain” (which is interfered with by the middle-men), we have the Health and Safety legislation, imposed by the EU. Restaurants/food outlets, until recently, were able to sell what fresh food they could during business hours and give away what good food was left over at close of business, to employees, etc. Now, the new legislation means that all of this left-over food must be dumped in a skip EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is a sin, if ever there was one, while human beings die of hunger every day, all around the world. It is a crime against humanity and against nature.

    Lorcan, everyone has to make “a living”; they do not “have to” make profits — there is a difference; and when one man’s “profits” cause another man to starve, we have a massive problem. We have that massive problem and the co-ops, the politicians, the middle-men, the PLCs, traders and the EU are all complicit.

    I grew up on a farm in “The Golden Vale” in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I remember stories of calves being drowned and dumped in dykes and ditches because of price-fixing: “Nobody wanted them”, was the explanation to the child-Tim. I remember my father complaining about the “milk-levy” imposed by the EU: He was producing TOO MUCH, it seems, and this was considered bad; he was levied for being too successful as a producer: because of price-fixing.

    The EU and the Sovereign governments therein have conspired with the middle-men and the PLCs on the stock market to interfere, for their own sakes, with true agriculture. “Set-Aside” payments are a blatent example: the farmer gets paid by the EU to leave the land untended, do nothing with it, produce nothing.

    When I was a kid in school, our geography teacher was explaining the “Polders” in Holland. He said that, “If the Irish owned Holland, we would drown; If the Dutch owned Ireland, they would feed the world”.

    But then, politico-business-cronyism does not seem to abide in the Netherlands; their ministers do not even have ministerial cars and are, apparently, paid no more than their top teachers (about €70k pa — anyone confirm?).

    Yes, David, Ireland is a very fertile land; but what are the “fertile minds” in Ireland doing with it?

    • woodsey

      Tim, I think it was Kaiser Wilhelm who’s credited with, ‘If the Dutch had Ireland they’d make it the bread-basket of Europe. If the Irish had Holland … it would sink!’

    • wills

      tim, you painted a very sobering picture above. Ireland and farming. We are back to the land again, and cronyism and the quick buck.

      • Tim

        wills, I tried. The reference to Richard Corrigan’s show was the hardest: Imagine the effort, toil and investment in ploughing, planting and nurturing those crops, only to end-up having to harrow the results back into the ground? Good food, nothing wrong with it at all, but wasted because of “market-forces”?!!!

        All, while children starve to death?

        Criminal! Sinful!

        “The Market”, “Economics”, have become more important in the artificial world that we have constructed for ourselves, than “people eating to survive”.

        To me, it is the stark antithesis of Geldoff, in 1984, saying “Give me your F***ing money!” (remember, he also wrote “Bannana Republic, septic Isle”.

        He knew, then, what many do not even realise, now.

        • wills

          tim, it’s messed up. We as a society must figure it out and fix it. I think it can be fixed. I do believe we must straighten all the above out first before we go forward with DmcW’s idea’s.

    • liam

      Good points Tim, well made. I’d just point out though that none of the situations you describe above are uniquely Irish, so that jab about dykes is merely German aristocratic snobbery. Milk lakes and butter mountains of the 1980′s were problem for dairy producers all over the EU as a result of the successful breeding of animals that produced high yields.

      CAP is at once a blessing and a curse. It was created as a means of countries preserving their means of food production. Certainly, if restrictions on production and importation of food to the EU were lifted, most independent Irish, British, French farmers would go out of business. On the other hand, CAP also encourages the types of practises you outline as well as a considerable amount of cute-hoorism on behalf of the farmers and the State. Which means, I guess we’re back to Crotty (again).

      The OP has a point though, in that this is a production capability that we have which is highly valuable. As I have mentioned in the past, in a race to the bottom, branding and diversification beyond industrial co-ops could be important. If we could get over our own snobbery about farming as a way of life, perhaps some interesting solutions might emerge.

  18. mediator

    @ Lorcan and others

    1.For the future of Irish Farming read John Seymour, he predicted where Irish (and other) farmers were going back in the 1970′s.

    2. GM food is about two things – profit and control. See my link at the beginning for evidence. Once farmers go down the GM route they lose the ability to make their own seed and become a hostage to the likes of Monsanto.

    3. Evil wears a pretty face. The advocates of GM are of course going to pretend its about world hunger etc… Who could argue against that. But its not what they say its what they do. People should stop listening and start observing.

    God bless

    • liam

      Well said. The problem with GM is not the science, its the IP. We will need it, sooner or later. As the OP alludes to, modern agriculture is essentially the process of turning crude oil in to food. One of the enablers of the Green Revolution came about as a result of petrochemical fertilzers and pesticides. Modern farming is now dependent on them.

      Norman Borlaug, ever heard of him?

      God has nothing to do with it.

      • mediator

        Quick one for you Liam

        I never said that God had anything to do with it. I finished my post with what is a traditional way of saying Goodbye in Ireland (Still is in many parts of Ireland but I guess not in your part of PC woods)

      • wills

        Liam, according to my viewpoint, the God question is slap bang in the middle of GM technology subverting the ‘staff of life’.

        So, for someone to assert ‘god has nothing to do with it’, i assume the it is GM and food, my retort will be, ‘ill – informed assertion’.

  19. Tull McAdoo

    I hold me auld clinic every Tuesday Night in the snug of the pub, ever since I won my seat on the County Council nearly 40 years ago.(still hold it by the way).Afterwards we usually play cards ,a game of 25,usually a 9 if we have enough. Now the talk always gets around to Farming as you would expect here in South Kerry. Packey Griffen came out with the best one I ever heard a few weeks ago…”there’s no seasons left in Ireland “ he said. My first thought was “I’ll have to drive him home tonight” but not so, as he went onn to explain it this way. “if you go into any supermarket, at any time of the year you can buy anything you want to ate.”…”you remember a time Seaneen when we made a right few bob, with the early spuds here in South Kerrry because we get no frost, well that’s all gone.” …” now if ye want to sell anything ya grow, your first stop is the Bank, and up to your neck in debt, for plant ,machinery, and fees for every class of a hoor of an advisor”. “ if ye miss any of yer payments the Banks will send onn their Rancher buddies to buy ye out and lave ye with nothing”……There’s no stopping Packey when ye get him wound up about the Banks…….Finish up there Lads the Guards are at the door!!!!!!.

    • Deco

      Tull – I presume that they are calling your hero in South Kerry –
      “Johnny Cash” ?

      Though as a farmer recently reminded me “at least the real Johnny Cash could sing – that arrogant lug can’t”

      He intended to stick it out as CC in the Dail – but Cowen could not get the FF backbenchers for support. So resignation followed to avvoid the Dail vote.

      I just wonder if the newspaper would be so kind now as to have a go at Coughlan, Dempsey, Cullen, etc. And then an opposition TD can table a motion of no confidence. And then we get more resignations in a similar manner.

  20. Philip

    GM = IP & Seasons are made irrelevant. Beautiful summations on the sleight of hand and state of disconnect our communities have with their local context. No wonder farmers are clobbered and sooner or later this fate will befall us all as we cede control to profit takers who are unanswerable to anyone. Champions of the so called “ultimately benevolent profit motive” who are on this board need to wake up.

    The only reason Monsanto was into GM was to make a vendor locked weedkiller. The lock in was the self terminating seed. How more frankenstein do you want it?

    • liam

      I seem to recall that under EU law, You can apply for a patent for an algorithim, but it is not possible to patent the computer code, only to claim copywrite on it. It would be interesting to see to what extent a genetic sequence is covered by this (DNA is the code, genes are the algorithims). The cost of genetic sequencing and of some of the GM techniques is currently high, but falling more or less as Moore’s Law scales. This is what will save us from Monsanto, maybe (hopefully). What we really need is genetic equivalents of the GNU and Creative Commons licenses.

  21. Philip

    The only reason for hunger is politics. NOT the lack of science and tech. The oppressed starve, while the soldiers become obese. Sounds very histrionic? look the puddingy pilots climb out ofbtheir F18s in Afganistan.

    Ray Crotty articulated the issues we have had here. They are still 100% true

    • Deco

      Actually a lot of it has to do with corruption in the third world. Basically, corrupt leaders have a prime objective of controlling power. And this means that they must control the system so that the locals need the government (read security forces). And then if this occurs, then the locals get very compliant and allow their boys to be signed into the army.

      And besides in societies dominated by gun men (security forces) distribution of food is controlled and corrupted in an extortion based manner. You are correct.
      Just look at the pictures from Zimbabwe. Soldiers fat from gluttony. And the rest of the populace begging for food. Beijing supplying guns for the soldiers for mineral exporation rights and wheat. At the source of the problem, corruption and the fascist police state.

  22. Tim – nobody has mentioned – MUCK & MANURE : these are the terrible twins in the X-Factor of Farm Production .They are not a waste and are recycleable .We need more MUCK & MANURE mentality to save our lands.

    • Tim

      John ALLEN, you are right, of course; and in more ways than one.The muck and manure is a good metaphor for what is being adressed (though not widely enough, yet) as “the disconnect” between the elite and the ordinary citizens of Ireland; between the politicians and the people they are supposed to represent; between the people and their land; people and nature.

      In August/September, when the local farmers in Wicklow spread their manure on their land, the people decry it for the smell and say things like, “There should be a law against that, imposing that smell on all of us; surely the Department of the Environment could do something about that horrible air-pollution of a stink?”

      Some people, I suppose, live such artificial lives that they would almost deny their own sphincters, if their heads were not already inside them;-)

      • Malcolm McClure

        Not to mention the ‘horse nappies’ for the ponys that pull jaunting cars through Killarney National Park.
        I have never heard of anything so ridiculous. Tourists must think, in spite of all the evidence, that we are so short of bullsh1t we have to resort to horse sh1t.

        • Tim

          Malcolm McClure, yes. I had it in mind while I was typing, but left it out as I would not dignify that beaurocratic measure with a mention. In the media, people have even been allowed to get away with justifying it by comparing horse manure with the laws on doggy pooper-scooping.

          However, doggy-do can cause toxemia – horse manure cannot; yet, this point is omitted. Indeed (and I hope you are all finished your dinners), there are more beneficial nutrients in horse manure than in many of the processed foods-in-a-box that people buy in the supermarkets!

  23. Deco

    Farming is tough work. It involves physical, moral and mental strenghth. Just like there is no such thing as a standard edition in any other profession, farmers vary in terms of ability. There are honest farmers, productive farmers, deceitful farmers, lazy farmers and crooks.

    Irish society is not organized to reward people who work hard, who strive and endure. Irish society is structured to reward people who work the system. Sophistication in Ireland is not about knowing how many kilograms of fertilizer will optimize wheat output, or which potatoe variety will thrive on a wet summer. Sophistication in Ireland is about joining a golf club,(and pretending to be fascinated by the company of the bores that are present there). It is about hanging out of anybody who is more powerful in the hope of a promotion or a break.

    We as a society are fundamentally organized in such a manner as to ensure that hard work is forced out of people to prop up the system. As such we are still a primitive society.The only growth we can create in this country comes from the resources of outside. Because the resources in Ireland are cornered in such a way as to prop up the wasters.

    Therefore, I think that the most important thing that we can do for agriculture is change the entire orientation of the Irish economy. A starting point would concern competition policy. Another key point would be to let the failed Irish banks get taken over by foreign banks, or at the very least let them fail. They are central to the cronyism that exists in Irish life.

    I know of a story years ago about a brother who was helping his sister buy a house in the commuter belt. He went to the bank to finalise his part of the deal, and discussed the purchase with the bank manager. He told the bank manager that he knew that he was doing the right thing, and that the house was undervalued. Then one month later, the builder gazumped the house. He left that bank.

    Alright another example. A man who was a butcher wanted to buy lambs for his shop. So he went to the mart. And then a crook from County Louth who was the main focus for criticism of the beef industry coming from Fintan O’Toole came on the scene. All the other bidders stopped – because this individual basically bullied his way a lot. The butcher had a clear idea what he was going to get for his customers. So the butcher bid against the Louth crook. And the butcher got the lambs. After which the crook said “there is always the fucking butcher”. He was insinuating that the butcher trade was interfering with his market influence. And thereby a threat to his economic system. But in any case if you want to more, read Tintan’s book on the matter. Unfortunately that issue went before a tribunal and came to nothing. Was it then any surprise that later tribunals were under-effective.

    Why would anybody want to be a farmer, to work all year, and make others rich in the retail and processing sector ? The rewards are focussed on becomming part of the state apparatus and attaching yourself to a political party who are in power. Just look at the board of FAS. If they had to justify their existence in anything they would fail. But instead they stick it out.

    First, before we get anywhere we need REFORM. Patronizing the farmers is all well and good – but we need to ensure that competition policy and state regulation are such as to prevent the bias towards ‘institutional farming’.

    And by institutional farming, I mean the way that state instutitions, ISEQ listed companies, and IBEC members are treating the rest of the citizenry as a collection of farm anaimals – to be controlled, herded, exploited, milked and sheared.

    • Tim

      Deco, Precisely! We are considered rather like batteries to supply the system, rechargeable for a while, but then discardable when we can no longer supply.

      How many times have we heard Harney refer to “the productive sector of the economy” in terms that state, almost categorically, that if your life does not pay for her hair-do in Florida, you are “unproductive”; a spent-battery; a “burden on the state”. You are, then, certainly not a person, a human being with value and dignity. You are beneath “useless”, once you are no longer “productive”: you are a “burden”.

      I remember a 78 year old man at a podium in a conference about pensions telling the room about his FOI Act application to find out why half his pension entitlement was being with-held; the memo sent by the department of finance to the superannuation division within the department of education stated: “Delay proceedings as long as possible; sooner or later, all these people will be gone – after all, the applicant is 78 years old.”

      Now, that’s what those who run the system think of you, after working for forty years and paying your pension contributions: “Since you are no longer productive, please hurry-up and die, will you?”

    • wills

      Deco, a society that functions along over relying on credit day to day, or, community of people that do not earn but scam and smash and grab in all different shapes and guises.

  24. Deco

    Tim your quotation is the best in a long time
    ” Yes, David, Ireland is a very fertile land; but what are the “fertile minds” in Ireland doing with it?”

    The fertile minds of Ireland have been diverted by every possible means from reforming the system. But hey, let’s keep up this discussion so as to alert them to what is going on in this country.

    The fertile minds in Ireland might want to focus on dismantling all the market rigging that is going on, undermining the nepotism by taking our business eslewhere, and not propping up any more of the cronyism.

    And you tabling motions at your local FF Cumman to annoy the leadership of FF and ask pertinant questions like “when are the publci going to see the real story about ANIB ?”.

    We all want to pull the rug out from under the vested interests. We just need to grab a thread and pull the thread. And eventually within two or three years the entire rug will be unravelled.

  25. MK1

    Hi All,

    This discussion is interesting. It doesnt take much to distill the arguments down into economic and societal systems, and their fairness or lack thereof.

    You see, capitalism, pure capitalism is completely unfair and leads to those that have more resources gaining more etc. Yes, there is luck. Yes, there is reward for effort, but it is not fair. It even leads to death for some.

    Our Human failings of greed, etc, play in the system. We try to combat this by regulations, etc, governments and government bodies and systems backed by armies and authorities, etc.

    But nowhere are economic systems fair on all citizens all the time. Its chaos in action, as each person is ‘pushing’ and being ‘pulled’ in the system. And their human competitive nature means they compete.

    Thus we have people that make more money and get more reward than they would deserve otherwise if based on their efforts, etc. Perhaps its due to the resources that they have. And not everyone gets the same chances or opportunity or starts off with a level playing field. And there are incomplete rules and imperfect refs!

    Thus if farmers in this example are being squeezed in the Field-to-Mouth supply chain, they are but an example of the above.

    But how to solve it? Not easy. Indeed, fair societies have not been prevalent looking back through human history if there are indeed any.

    As a species I think we have the intelligence to create one, for the planet. But as a succesful species our inherent competitive attributes mean that it is easier to ‘kick’ than to nurture. And business and economy is all about competing!


    • wills

      Mk1. Let me disagree with your assertion ‘pure capitalism is completely unfair’. On the basis that you are referring to free market dynamics, i contend, free markets inherently are equitable, just and even stephen. If only mankind gave them a chance to do the magic.


    Compare and contrast the wealth generated by the fishing industries of Iceland and Ireland.Most of our processed fish products are imported.Agriculture has gone down similar path.Farms are too small and are kept alive by subsidy.The way forward is to completely privatise health and education and sell their output to wealthy foreigners.A flu jab in USA is one third the Irish price-shows how far we have to travel to get our cost base right.

  27. G

    Professor Michael Hudson is well worth checking out……….
    see http://michael-hudson.com/

    A couple of his articles:

    Rescue for the Few, Debt Slavery for the Many

    The Language of Looting

  28. adamabyss


    • wills

      I’m not getting this ‘subscribe’ thing adam.

      • adamabyss

        Wills, it get’s the comments sent to my email. Another reader seems to have to do it too. I asked the webmaster some months ago about how I could just get every comment regardless; he wasn’t able to help. I’m not getting the God thing Wills, never have. Bring on GM is what I say as long as it’s not just for profit, bur rather for productivity. Have a nice weekend.

        • wills

          the god thing explained, not that you asked adam. Hope your back to good health.

          GM is hacking into natures software programming. Man did not write this program. The right to alter the programming belongs to the writer. And there you go, the write = ?, and ? is me ‘ol friend and master, willy wonka aka BOSSMAN / god.

          • adamabyss

            Are you a creationist or something wills? Surely a clever man like you doesn’t believe in that intelligent design nonsense?

  29. Wobble Wobble Wobble

    Black Monday 19th Oct 2009

    The Last for a while tune in

    • Tim

      John ALLEN, the pull has already started; I noticed it on Tuesday, witnessed it on Wednesday and, downright, felt it today.

      The (((wobble))) is quite dangerous!

      Everyone should be extra-careful. (Good advice at the best of times: constant vigilance!)

  30. Original-Ed

    I don’t know David if farming in Ireland can ever reach its full potential – the price of agricultural land is way out of line with its productive potential – it’s considered to be a trophy rather than a resource. Irish farmers want it handed to them on a plate – they don’t want the responsibility of employing people to add value or for marketing and that’s why it’s a none runner. They prefer to depend on processors who play the market for their own ends and until that changes, it doesn’t have real sense of direction.

  31. Tim

    Folks, Miriam did it again: “Nama is complicated for most people”…..

    We are too thick to hear facts and figures.

  32. Tim

    get the C and AG to look at it “After” NAMA is set up?

    Richard Bruton did NOT say, “Too Late, then.”

    Why not?

  33. wills

    I repeat, farming is NOT a business. To view farming as first and foremost as a business is the big MISTAKE society is making and inviting hell on earth to make a visit.
    Farming is a test of a societies real values and what it really thinks of itself and if an alien landed on earth and wanted to find out what the indigenous culture is really up too, have a look at the farming, top to bottom.

  34. Tim

    wills, you are correct and right.

    We must address these fundamentals.

    One might be forgiven, these days, for assuming that our lives are all about money, equity, profit.

    They are not.

    Our lives are about relationships; love, connections, friendships.

    “The Market” is still what it has always been: a “side-issue”; a “gamble”; and the gamblers should be allowed to accept their losses.

  35. AndrewGMooney

    David mentions China and Africa. The fact is the Chinese and the Gulf States are engaged in a massive land grab of African soil fertility and water in a desparate attempt to feed their own populations. They have trillions of hard currency to wave in the face of corrupt African ‘leaders’. I can’t see how Ireland could muscle in other than as part of a concerted EU strategy. Given the super-abundance of Ukraine’s soil, it’s hard to see how Africa would interest the EU, given they have so many vested interests in the CAP to look after.

    The world’s popultation will not increase to 9 billion. Yeast. Sugar: Dieoff.org. The only part of history that Malthus got wrong was the brief centuries from his writings to now. Although the ‘defracking’ shale gas deveopments appear to have granted the world a reprieve: Peak Oil hasn’t gone away and the replacement of petrochemical fertilizers and pest control hasn’t been developed. Cuba and Dig For Britain WW2 seem more likely avenues for the relocalisation of food prodution for most (read: Poor) people. Other than the super-rich, it won’t involve strawberries in December from half-way across the world. Current supermarket superabundance will seem like a bizarre fantasy, which it is. What hi-tech agriculture there is in the future will be largely under plastic polytunnels, such as Thanet Earth in Kent.

    As for GM, what’s new?

    ‘Machu Picchu was not primarily a ceremonial site, as is sometimes assumed, but the center of Incan agricultural research. He speculates that the terraces were created as test plots mirroring the various climate and soil conditions of key regions of an empire that spanned much of the Andes. On these terraces, new varieties of food and textile crops would have been bred and tested before being distributed to local farmers for further adaptation.’


    The whole world loves a good spud, and it’s spuds that may feed the world. The future lies in the Andes as much as in Africa. Or maybe in Antarctica, if the reports of Japanese firms growing lettuces there are actually true:


    Crazy world!

    • wills

      Andrew. Love the post, as always. Don’t get the GM quip, are you dismissing it as quaint and meaningless.

      • AndrewGMooney

        Wills. Not dismissing concerns over GM as meaningless, just misconceived.

        From ancient Mayan spud labs in the Andes to the dilemmas of farmed/wild salmon interbreeding today: There is no such thing as ‘natural’ once ‘homo sapiens sapiens’ gets involved. The same dilemmas reveal themselves in hi-tech medicine. There’s no such thing as a ‘natural’ death inside a hi-tech hospital, as life-altering and life-extending technologies frame ‘life’ in a post-natural context.
        There’s no longer any thing such as ‘natural farming’, oil based pesticides and fertilizers certainly aren’t ‘natural’. Neither is current beef/dairy holocaust farming with it’s antibiotics and systemic cruelties.

        On a personal level, I’m all for the precautionary principle reigning in the worst excesses and hubris of technocracy for an epoch of consolidation, planetary clean-up and species preservation. But it ain’t gonna happen. The genie is out of the bottle, the rubicon has been crossed and ‘intelligent’ human beings have not evolved ethically to handle their fractally increasing genius technologies. Hence, I’m a dystopian cornucopian rather than a utopian cornucopian. The drive towards globalisation and uber-efficient market economies will continue at whatever cost to the environment, the citizens and the future. Alongside tech marvels (The Singularity of Kurzweil) there will be random, rolling societal collapse (Dimitri Orlov, Kunstler, etc). Such a collapse could occur in America, Britain or Ireland. A financial ‘Sudden Stop’ or a ‘Liquid Fuels Crisis’. Or War.

        The future of (Irish) farming will be a conflictual battle between Green and Hi-Tech (GM) ideologies, both having validity in different contexts. There’s no way you can feed Dublin and Birmingham on ‘natural’ food, unless you’re going to have a Year Zero a la Pol Pot ordering everyone out into the surrounding fields. If oil supplies are interrupted, then the inhabitants will flee the cities looking for food, and no amount of organic farming will suffice.

        ‘Man. Nature. Technology. EXPO zwei-tausend
        EXPO two-thousand
        The twentyfirst century
        Das einundzwanstigste Jahrhundert
        EXPO zwei-tausend
        EXPO two-thousand
        Man Nature Technology
        Mensch Natur Technik
        Planet of visions
        Planet der visionen’

        Lyric by Hutter/Schneider. Kraftwerk ‘Expo 2000′

        • wills

          Agreed, to a point. Technology and food production co exist, symbiotically if the balance is right. GM and food production is FRANKEINSTEIN. The old methods of morphing food production were inherently stable. GM is inherently unstable and a return to the stone age regards farming. GM is taking a hammer to crack a nut.

  36. Tim

    Another guy on Vb says, “I don’t want to get too technical on our viewers, but the banks are very bust”.

    Why are all the people on our TVs and Radios saying that we cannot understand the facts of the problem?

    I, REALLY, am sick of this.

    • wills

      Here here. Can i give that one a go tim.

      The ‘vested interests’ are moving into the next phase of the BIG, FAT, STINKING LIE that is NAMA.

      The next phase is the pre – emptive hypnosis stage.

      In short this is the stage that ushers in a lulling soporific mind program on the masses relating to rational concerns held over NAMA, to stem the tide of disquiet as the real debate begins on the technicalities.

      So, for example, on PRIMETIME to night the NAMA proponent did not answer any of Miriams questions. Each queston was used as an opportunity to go into predictive programming on certain essentials, and in the interviews case it was a number of mind melds. One of which been, talking about NAMA as if it’s too complicated for regular joe too understand and so we need technocrat specky four eyed to do the math and we will all be OK DAve,………..

  37. Tim

    Robbie Kelleher, of “Davy Stock-Brokers”, with his head held high, says, “apart from the figures, and all that kinda stuff….”


    Apart from the figures?

  38. Tim


    Stockbroker-man, Robbie Kelleher, of “Davy Stock-Brokers”, reckons we/yaxpayer “MUST” support NAMA?

    Ah, sure, okay so…..

  39. Tim

    Ooops, should read “Taxpayer”.

    • Tull McAdoo

      Let Me tell ya this young man,I was looking after the Taxpayers of this Country as a sitting TD when you were still wiping your nose on your sleeve.LOL lol .Now when yourself and that Wills are finished jabbering on there,I want the two of ye to work out these sums for Me,because I am expecting some odd questions at next Tuesdays Clinic. I left school at 14 and was never great at the sums. Here ye go …If Nama loans are 77 billion Euro in total, why has Linehan published a Buisness plan that shows only repayments of 1 billion for 2010, 1 billion for 2011 and only 2.5 billion for 2012.What interest rate are these developers paying do ye reckon????? would they be paying a rate similar to the ECB rate that the Government is getting????? When yer finished stewing on that little anomaly maybe some of ye bright sparks could tell Me, HOW you go about getting one of them “chape loans” so as I can pass onn the information to “the plain people of South Kerry” who I’M proud to represent. Now off with ye , maith a bhuachaileens agus oiche mhaith.

  40. wills

    Anybody who thinks banker bailouts, which is what the NAMA FAT STINKING LIE is, will result in a return to prudent banking, maybe a look at this link will shed some light. Cos, AIB and BOI and ANIB executives will be trundling along up the same garden path come the installing of NAMA.

    • Tull McAdoo

      Here , will you go up there and give that lad from wickla a hand with them sums,before there’s a reveloution here in South Kerry.

      • Tull McAdoo

        p.s. They’ll have My heart broke down here trying to get them chape loans, especially with the Christmas coming up. This feckin Nama will get Me an early grave.

  41. Weird Echoes of NAMA –

    Presently there are visible earthly signs that the government is already burst in the process of collecting current monies that are fantasies in the real world.I have noticed the following :

    Revenue do not frequently resort to writing signed letters to tax payers / agents as once was done ; and

    More telephone calls are the norm that can often erode the rights of taxpayers when unexpectedly received ; and

    Revenue do not encourage replies in writing unless payment is included; and

    Revenue are telephoning Directors of small now defunct companies since ceased trading and insolvent and bullying their way for monies to be paid ; and

    Revenue do not frequently disclose the full identity of the telephone caller ; and

    Sheriff’s have had some threatening suicidal cases of taxpayers who cannot pay and where the banks have destroyed their dreams and many farmers are included in this ; and

    Farmers wives are known to have rang the Sheriff to return to the farm to calm the threatening suicide of husband farmers ‘gone up the field’ to do the honorable thing; and

    Revenue Inspections have increased with very small businesses even in frugal lesser class area of town and cities ; and

    Computer errors have been written about taxpayers before revenue audits claiming inaccurate allegations resulting in emotional encounters between inspector and taxpayers only to retracted later; and

    Less work available in many sections of Revenue; and

    Many older social welfare officers have been transferred to Revenue Taxes to do general tax work audits that they were never trained to do and have very little experience of and invariable make a shambles of ; and

    There are more but the hard facts are Brian Lenihan is unable to collect what may be due now. How can he expect to collect proposed additional taxes under the NAMA regime .

    • Tull McAdoo

      Spot onn Seaneen A. Now with your Accounting background I’m sure you realise that tax take as a % of GDP or GNP is way down. Given net exports over imports are holding up and even allowing for fall off in consumer transactional taxes,it is very clear that those who should pay ,just wont pay, and are happy to sit back and wait while social welfare,low paid P.S. employees ,pensioners etc. remain in the cross-hairs of the Media led vested interests.What do you think of that Me auld Limerick neighbour???.

  42. wills

    NAMA is the vested interests crony power elites taking care of business. Taking care of business within their own orbit. Continuing to increase their income growth.

    Revenue and public finances and the public sector bill and social welfare bill is business to be taken care of within the taxpayers orbit. These are issues which bear no reality outside of the general taxpayer s orbit.

    The technocrats running the affairs of the state, run the affairs with one eye on the feudal lords orbit and one eye on the sharecropper taxpayers orbit.

    So, the private banking establishment and their technocrats are running schemes and plans and
    tricks and the like too preserve the status quo, continue to keep increasing their income and wealth and keep the sharecropper taxpayer at bay and dumbed down and in debt and disempowered and in fear and uncertainity and in fact squared off in a serfdom box.

    So, whether it maybe NAMA, or, axing public sector wages or social welfare, there lies behind the razzle dazzle a raison d’etre that remains unchanged. A hidden power structure doing whatever needs to be done at any given moment to preserve itself going forward into their future where they remain in elitist control lording a hidden tyranny over the sharecropper taxpayers.

    So, farming is purloined by interfering bureaucracy cos farming must come under a governmental control. Private banking operations are above the law cos the power elites use it too keep the hidden hand of tyranny functional. Government another mechanism operating too the continuation of elitest control, members of parliament all working for a
    political system broken, leaving others in real power.

    • wills

      So, each person living in society is either working for this neo feudal systematic bone crusher to one degree or another, or, not.

      The time is arriving whereby those that are expending energies in service of the neo feudal prison system are having second thoughts over it. And these re evaluators are increasing in numbers.

      An awakening is afoot, and gathering great momentum.

      The power elites are well aware of this reviving of the human spirit and are busy trying to crush it. NAMA is a punch to the solar plexus of the sharecropper taxpayer to dampen their spirits down. Particularly the younger generation waking up. ‘Looting’ is great for billy clubbing the sharecropper over the head.

      • Tull McAdoo

        “a punch to the solar plexus would sicken ya right enough” but not as much as the truth that NAMA will carry onn from where the banks left off ROLLING UP INTEREST FOR THEIR BUDDIES. HAVE YOU ANY LINKS FOR THAT FACT ME AULD GORSOON.

  43. mcsean2163

    It drives me up the wall to see these farmers, with their inherited farms, protesting in their €100k tractors while so many people have no jobs and live in social housing.

    I think it is completely unfair that we are expected to pay farmers above the odds for their produce (grants).

    The economist quoted three reason for that I think was 100 million people were facing strarvation last 2008. 1. Oil 2. Ethanol 3. Agricultural subsidies.

    People are actually dying because of the european farm system of subsidies.

    I would be happy to export our farmers out of Ireland as David suggests…….

    • Colin_in_exile


      I agree 1000%.

      If farmers can’t make a living from farming, they should get out of it, sell their farm, and move to the town and start a small entreprise and provide employment. If their legendry work ethic is true, there will be no stopping us climbing out of the recession.

      Think they’ll do that? No, they’ll moan and bitch about drop in income from their expensive tractors, while refusing to sell any of their valuable asset. Hypocracy is the greatest luxury.

    • john30

      For a start Sean, Farmers are producing food at below the cost of production. Average income of farmers this year, including “grants” as you say is 15,000. How many civil cervants would get up on their elbow for that.
      Countries from the third world can export their goods to the EU tarrif free. Many previous exporting nations can barely feed themsevles, such as argentina who had an export ban on beef last year.
      If you want to see people dying take away subsidies and see how much food you have to eat.
      With respect you have a very simplified view on farming.

      • Colin_in_exile

        “For a start Sean, Farmers are producing food at below the cost of production.” – All the more reason for these farmers to stop farming and sell up. They’ve obviously failed at it. No one has asked them to be a martyr to the land. They should get over their obsession with land. This sense of entitlement is fcuking unbelieveable.

        • john30

          Entitlement to what? A fair living or wage. How dare they?
          Unions protest and loby vehemently over a 5% reduction in a gold plated pension yet farmers can not protest over poor incomes.
          So your solution is all the farmers to leave the land as they have a national average income of 15,000.
          Sell up to who exactly? Would you like Ireland to look like Dakota as long as you have cheap food.
          And as for the expensive tractor crap. These large tratcors are the cheapest method for tilling land. Shoud we all go back to the horse and plough.

          • Colin_in_exile


            “A fair living or wage. How dare they?” Its a bit rich of them to moan about incomes, when they are unwilling to sell part/all of their asset. They could have moved to the town in the celtic tiger years when there was full employment, but they didn’t want to. They’re too proud to be ordered what to do in a factory/office/store/warehouse.

            “Unions protest and lobby vehemently over a 5% reduction in a gold plated pension yet farmers can not protest over poor incomes.” – I do not support unions because they are only interested in feathering their own nest, JO’C won’t budge on his +€100k salary, paid for by union members. Unions are only supported in Public Sector, not allowed in to mess up much of the multinationals here such as Dell during the Celtic Tiger Years.

            “So your solution is all the farmers to leave the land as they have a national average income of 15,000.” No. I’m suggesting those who moan about their income should leave the land. The land doesn’t owe them anything, just as crystal glass buying yanks don’t owe waterford crystal workers anything. Perhaps consolidation of farms would be a good thing?

            “Sell up to who exactly?” Anyone, other farmers, golf clubs, outdoor pursuits/activities, anyone who wants to do anything with land.

            “Would you like Ireland to look like Dakota as long as you have cheap food.” I wouldn’t mind if Ireland looked like Mars, just as long as whinging entitlement obsessed farmers no longer existed.

            ” Shoud we all go back to the horse and plough.” I think farmers should go back to real world, they’ve been living in a parallel universe of entitlement for too many years now.

          • paddythepig

            “Sell up to who exactly”

            I’d buy an acre or two, I’d love to grow me own spuds as the back garden is a bit on the small side. A few of my buddies are mad for a few acres as well. I bet there’s lots of buyers out there, at the right price.


          • john30


            I’ll keep this short as I don’t think we’re going to agree.
            To sell part of their farm is not a long term stragegy. If you have to keep doing this to make a living sooner or later you’ll have no farm to sell.
            Sell to whoever wants the land. Have we not enough golf cousre already? Take your point though.There is a long term issue about global food supply coming around the corner. There were plenty of commentators complaining that bio fuels were responsible for the reductinion in global food supply. You can do without cyrstal etc, but it is very unhealthy not ot eat.
            Consolodation is probably a good thing, in certain areas. Large tillage areas etc. but does not suit all areas.
            Every nation has a NEED for agricluture. Its what enables modern society to live the way it does at the present. You may not like farmers but we all need them, like it or not.
            Enjoyed the chat.

  44. Well Tully :as yere wahar wood say tis nuttin gets done if the mashanery dont workk – and ye have no monaye for the church collections then on sunday .If she were upp 4 de daye in dublin then she wud saye the same thing too – that the government will get nothing more if they cannot get what they can should get now.
    But she always saze that the country was grannnnde when yere fella from moin mhean – moyvane was the boss of the central bank …but he is gone now …is’nt he …is in’t he ….put more turf in the fire tully and fill yere cup again.

    • Tull McAdoo

      Begob Johnny A. ye said a mouthfull there to be sure, but dont forget that Bertie said on the wireless yesterday that Himself and Mc Creevey had no choice but set up the Financial Regulator/ombudsman and split them away from the Centerral Bank becuse He said they were inclined to take their eye off the ball with the High Street Banks and let them away with murder i.e overcharging,ansbacher,foreign exchange etc….So it was a kick in the hole for the Centerral Bank from bertie and moyvane. Having said that it seems Bertie has kicked all around Him lately, tis a pity his own legs are not double jointed or He would’nt sit down for a month. You might want to keep your dog in the house if He comes rambling around Limerick plugging His new BOOOOOOOK.

  45. wills

    ..problem seems to me to be that people confuse the that fact that markets behave according too their own inner logic, markets don’t hue toward the underlying economic assumptions that one would think would apply to markets, so, this reality results in free market dynamics getting a bad rap. The free market will perform its magic if humans worked rationally.

    JUST because humans act irrationally does not mean the free market system / pure capitalism is unfair.

    • Tull McAdoo

      Free market me backside, market rigging,asymettric information,clientelism yada yada yada. Successive Irish Governments have used Adam Smiths “invisible hand” to beat the shit out of “the plain people of South Kerry” since the foundation of the State. Its whose pulling the strings of the invisible hand that were trying to drill down and find here at the minute before “we’ll all be ruined said Hanrahan before the night is out” wink wink .

  46. wills

    Here’s the reality of the banker bailout NAMA. The NAMA pot of gold for the bankers will be robbed by the banksters.


  47. Malcolm McClure

    Okay lads, there’s a time for the auld craic and a time to become serious. I think maybe its time to leave the back- biting aside and look at the hard questions.
    I think John Allen ‘Gets It’ when he says: “Sheriff’s have had some threatening suicidal cases of taxpayers who cannot pay and where the banks have destroyed their dreams and many farmers are included in this”.
    This is the ultimate criticism of those who created the situation we find ourselves in. And its only the beginning of a suicide bubble inflated by pressure from banks and debt collectors. This was brought home the other day when a prominent local business man and pillar of the community couldn’t cope with the pressure any more.
    Let’s remember that developers are human beings too. They had a dream and its turned into a nightmare.

    • Colin_in_exile

      A dog was carrying a bone over a bridge. Looking down into the water, the dog saw its own reflection, which looked to him like another dog carrying another bone. Wanting the other dog’s bone as well as his own, the dog opened his mouth to bark at the “other” dog it saw, but in doing so, the dog dropped his own bone into the river, where it was gone for good.

      The sad, hungry dog learned the hard lesson that, by being greedy, one risks what one already has.


      • Alan42

        But the sad hungry dog should go to the Irish taxpayer and will recieve lots of bones. Maybe the dog could bite somebody . We have lots of bones . The dog should know this and not be so sad .
        Great article on farming . Food here in Oz is very expensive because of the drought . Farmers in certain parts of Oz try to grow rice which is water intensive in the driest continent in the world !

    • Alan42

      A developer would have set up a limited company and would have no personal responsability to repay debts .
      For the ordinary person there was no dream or party . Thats just Irish spin for we were all having a great time and lets bail out everybody . Its not a bailout for everybody , its a bailout for the special few .
      The kind of nonsense that JOD spoke about in his ‘ different times ‘ speech . What different times were they ? The one were he spent big while children were being educated in prefabicated huts and people died for the want of basic medical care in hospitals ?

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