The majority of farmers are passionate about their careers, but they are some that speak out in defending the industry and seeking better conditions.
Noel Feeney has spent a lifetime voicing the concerns of farmers around the country, in his role with the Agricultural Consultants Association.
The ACA was established in 1979 with its business name registered in 1981 to represent Independent Agricultural Consultants in Ireland. The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) currently have 159 professional members with a further 400 professional, technical and administration staff employed with our members throughout Ireland.
ACA members must have a minimum of a level 8 qualification in Agriculture, Horticulture or Forestry. Members must have Professional Indemnity, abide by the Association’s Constitution and Code of Ethics and comply with the annual requirements of Continuous Professional Development.
Many of their members are publicly recognized as leading experts in their particular fields and many are frequently featured in media comment on events as they unfold in the agricultural sector.
Services include farm technical advice in all areas of farming; Farm planning; Forestry consultancy, acquisitions, planting & management; Farm management and consultancy; Farm Accounts, Income Tax, PAYE, VAT, Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance and Gift Tax; European Union (EU) and Government related schemes in agriculture and farming e.g. GLAS, TAMS and nutrient management planning, Early Retirement Schemes, Forestry, Leader, Area Aid, Educational Courses etc.
Public Authority, Government & Local Government acquisition of lands and property – assessment and negotiation; Insurance claims advice to legal profession and attendance as professional witness in court. Project management and new business set-up services.
A recent report by Economist Jim Power revealed that most farmers are using private consultants that the national advisory service.
Environmental consultancy including preparation of environmental impact statements and preparation of integrated pollution control licence applications; Land valuations; Laboratory analysis of agricultural products and inputs; Farm buildings and yards, layout and planning.
“I have been an agricultural consultant for the past 25 years and it is a very interesting role. I am passionate about farming and what I do. We help out farmers in a number of areas like machinery grants, preparation for annual audits, dealing with solicitors and accountants, so it is a job that never gets boring,” said Noel.
“Because of the long history of an ACA advisor advising farmers annually, huge trust has been built up and this will enable farmers to more readily embrace new schemes and requirements going forward because they have been consulting with the same advisor for years”
Noel revealed that there are a number of changes in the agricultural industry on the way, particularly in the environmental sector where climate change and emissions are under scrutiny.
“It is hard to change farmers ways of thinking, but these changes are on the way and it will affect the farming community, so it is something that they will have to embrace.
“The main issues I see affecting agriculture going forward are Brexit, Climate Change and changes in Consumer dietary habits.”
In his role as honorary secretary with the ACA, Noel revealed that the aim is to represent the advisors, which is a role he enjoys being involved in.
“We would have a strong clientele to look after and it is a very enjoyable role. The ACA does so much good that goes unrecognised, but it is in a strong position going forward.
Noel admits that being involved in so much takes up a lot of his time, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Yes, it’s time consuming trying to juggle the business, farm and family life, but I like being busy and I have a great support network around me.”
One situation that could affect farming in Ireland is Brexit and Noel stated the uncertainty involved is causing concern amongst the industry.
“Brexit raises a lot of questions especially if a deal is put in place. There are a lot of pressures there, but until we know what is happening, there is not much that can be done.”
When asked if the Irish Government are doing enough to support the agricultural industry, Noel had mixed views on the matter.
“There has been a lot of work done, but there could be a lot more. There is €200 million gone back into the exchequer and that could be put back into the agricultural industry.”
Speaking passionately about farming, Noel is in no doubt that the industry kept the country going during one of its darkest hours.
“During the recession, farming was what kept this country going, there is no denying that. While every other industry was struggling, farming was going strong and provided a lot of employment during that period.”
During his many years involved in the industry, Noel has seen generations of families be involved in farming as children have grown up and taken over their parents’ farms.
“It has been interesting to see the dynamic change as farms go from one generation to another. I have seen kids grow up and are now running farms and putting their own ideas into farming.
“There is a great generation coming through who are very progressive and the majority are now college educated and looking to get the maximum potential from their farms.”
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First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 1, February/March 2020