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The boards of Barryroe and Drinagh Co-ops, part of the Carbery group, had separate visits to Brussels in October to meet with EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness and MEPs while also visiting dairy farms in Wallonia in Southern Belgium.

Damien O’Reilly, EU Affairs Manager with ICOS in Brussels hosted the groups. “This was a great opportunity for the members of the boards of both co-ops to find out more about the workings of the EU institutions. So many rules and regulations and red tape which affect the lives of farmers and the work of Co-ops comes from Brussels. The delegations met with EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness and visited the EU Parliament where they held meetings with MEPs, Billy Kelleher (FF), Sean Kelly (FG) and Deirdre Clune (FG).”

Both groups highlighted their concerns to the politicians in relation to the cutting of the nitrate’s derogation from 250kg/N/ha. It was also discussed passionately in a meeting with the Irish Agricultural counsel in the Irish Permanent Rep, Brussels Martin Crowley who also met with both boards. Barryroe also met with Cork woman Rose O’Donovan who edits the influential Agrafacts newspaper devoted to agricultural and trade issues. Drinagh met with Roscommon man Niall Curley who is a policy executive with the umbrella body for EU farming and co-operative organisations COPA-COGECA. He warned about more legislation around soil monitoring and other Green Deal measures which is coming down the tracks and will impact on the way we farm the land.

Drinagh and Barryroe members also had the opportunity to compare notes with local dairy farmers when they visited dairy farms in the Walloon region near Ciney. They also visited the Belgian Blue AI centre in Ciney where they heard how demand for straws is decreasing in the Benelux countries and Germany due to cuts in cow numbers. However, demand is growing in South America and Vietnam indicating a clear shift in production from Europe to these countries.

“I was delighted to welcome both groups to Brussels. Commissioner McGuinness and the MEPs were also very pleased to make time from their busy schedules to meet the farmers and hear their concerns while also explaining to them how the EU works in terms of crafting policy and implementing it. I think it is important that farmers and Co-ops have a solid understanding of the mechanics of how Brussels works,” said Damien O’Reilly. “We have had an office here since 1973 and work closely with our sister organisations from across Europe to have an input into policy decisions with our members’ concerns in mind. We are delighted to welcome our members to Brussels to see for themselves the complexities of proposing, debating and amending the legislation.”

Tags: Brussels, West Cork Co-ops