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Minister Smith Addresses the Professional Agricultural Contractors Association

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith T.D., addressed the members of the Professional Agricultural Contractors Association at their Annual Dinner held in the Lakeside Hotel, Virginia on Saturday night 13th February. The Minister took the opportunity to reflect on the events of the past year and look forward to what this year may bring for Irish agriculture, particularly those involved in the agricultural contracting business.

While highlighting a range of difficult issues for agriculture during 2009 such as the economic climate, the adverse weather conditions and pressure on autumn cereal sowings, he expressed optimism that, given the continued support by the Government for agriculture, returns should improve in the second half of 2010. "In 2009, total payments made to Irish farmers by the Department, either as direct payments or in the form of grants to improve farm infrastructure amounted to well over two billion Euro. This is a very major commitment to a vital sector of the economy" he said.

The Minister also singled out the increased emphasis being placed by the EU on ensuring that agricultural production has to be carried out in much greater harmony with the environment and the role contractors play in this, saying "EU requirements such as the Nitrates Directive and Cross-Compliance are examples of the environmental regulatory framework impacting directly on farmers and contractors alike. Contractors have been involved at the practical end of many of these changes"

Minister Smith concluded by referring to "the vitally important issue of farm safety" when he complimented the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee in bringing forward the Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture.

The Minister encouraged all involved with farm machinery to take the necessary courses and play their part in ensuring that farm accidents are kept to a minimum.

Date Released: 13 February 2010