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Over 200 guests attended the joint ICOS/IFA 50th anniversary celebration of the opening of both organisations’ offices in Brussels at the end of April. Guests included many representatives from other European farming and co-operative organisations also based in the Belgian capital.

Among those attending were past ICOS Brussels office managers. Conor Mulvihill, Carol Thomas, and Michael Quigley. Alan Dukes, Gerry Kiely, and Michael Treacy from the IFA were also present and regaled the gathering with stories from their stints spent running the office at the heart of the EU.

In a pre-recorded address for the occasion, EU Commissioner for Financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union Mairead McGuinness said, “Opening the offices in Brussels were inspired and essential developments. It was and still is important for farm organisations to be close to the decision-making process and to be linked with farmers across the EU through COPA COGECA.”

Commissioner McGuinness said that over the past 50 years we have seen some great years in farming and some not so great from elation at joining the EEC to concerns about over production. “As we look to the next 50 years, we face very different challenges. Climate Change and environmental issues are to the fore. We now know that some of the policies advocated in the past such as draining land and removing hedgerows and other features went too far.”

In her address she focussed on the challenges facing farming and food production in the future. “Agricultural policy is no longer confined to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Today climate and environmental polices impact farming just as farming has its impact on both. Despite the often-divisive public debates, farmers are embracing the new reality and finding ways to tackle emissions, support biodiversity and guard against pollution. More needs to be done. Farm leaders know this and are in a position to provide that leadership while always ensuring that policy makers understand the complexities of the challenges and the difficulties farmers face in meeting them while not losing sight of farmers as providers of food.”

The former MEP and First Vice-President of the Parliament concluded by saying, “You have achieved the objective of bringing the voice of Irish farmers to the EU table. Your presence in Brussels remains as important as it was all those years ago and maybe more so.”

ICOS President James O’Donnell and IFA President Tim Cullinane also addressed the event which was attended by members of the board of ICOS.