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Damien O'Reilly, EU Affairs & Communication Manager

Greetings from my new office in Brussels. That is an introduction I never thought I would utter in my life. But here I am writing to you from the ICOS office on the 7th floor of the COPA-COGEGA headquarters on Rue de Treves nestled between the EU Commission building around the corner and the EU Parliament down the street.

And as I embark on this exciting new challenge, this year is a very special year for ICOS as, along with the nation, we celebrate 50 years in Europe. This office has been here from when we joined the EEC alongside our colleagues in the Irish Farmers Association. The Danes who occupy this building are also celebrating the golden jubilee of accession to the EU.

Since landing out here towards the end of last year, I have been busy getting to know my new colleagues from across the continent and those that represent the co-operative movement in their country. While in search of a place I can call home here, I have been easing my way into my new role as EU Affairs and Communications manager with ICOS. What struck me in the first weeks of attending meetings both at home and here in the Belgian capital has been the clear focus on climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainability.

Listening to the various scientists, experts and policy makers talk about the tricky pathway forward to producing safe traceable food while meeting the three key pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environmental), it occurred to me how little the general public know about this work behind the scenes. Food production alongside transport and energy is very much in focus in terms of meeting key obligations to decarbonise.

And while we all talk about changing to electric cars, improving public transport options, reducing flying and retrofitting our homes and workplaces to play our part in helping meet transport and industry targets, the direction of travel for the agrifood sector is probably not as clear. For farmers and consumers alike, we remain somewhat confused about how we can be more sustainable from farm to fork.

Yet the only show in town is finding ways and means to make food production greener while not upsetting the importance of maintaining the vibrancy of rural communities and the security of income for the value chain from inside the farm gate to the shop shelf.

I look forward to keeping you up to speed with progress in that regard from here in Brussels via this column next month and in the months ahead. And I hope to find a nice abode too!

By Damien O’Reilly

Letter from Brussels published in the Irish Farmers Monthly