Carrick-On-Suir farmer Martin Coughlan has been elected as the Chairman of Waterford ICSA and succeeds Edmund Phelan, who had held the position for the past four years.
Mr Coughlan, a native of Rathgormack who farms in Mothel, believes his association must “engage more with farmers than we have up to now”.
“I want to let farmers of cattle, sheep and sucklers, finishers and all drystock farmers know that they have an organisation which exclusively caters for them,” he told The Munster Express on Thursday last.
“With respect to the other farming bodies, their agenda is primarily driven by the dairy men. So I think it’s up to us to let drystock farmers across Waterford, which is a county of mixed farming, know they have a viable alternative.”
Added Mr Coughlan: “We achieved full social partnership two and a half years ago. We’re on the same footing as the IFA and the ICMSA when it comes to negotiating with the Government.
“What none of the farming groups can lose sight of is this: we are effectively trade unions. And when I look at the other farm organisations, I can’t help thinking that some appear to be in a comfort zone with the Government.
“Now I don’t see that sort of comfort zone as being conducive to conducting good negotiations. And as farmers’ representatives, we can’t lose sight of our ability to negotiate effectively on behalf of our members.”
A well-known beef farmer, Mr Coughlan has successfully represented Waterford ICSA members; among them was a campaign to have the Waterford County Development plan amended so that young farmers had an automatic right to build on their land.
“This is something I am adamant on and will remain adamant on,” he said.
“If you are a member of a family that has lived in an area for generations, and whether you own a hundred acres or half an acre, positive discrimination should be applied by the Council when it comes to granting planning permission.”
He continued: “I know and I’m sure you know of many a stupid planning refusal that’s been made when it comes to the county. Now I make no apologies for my views on this issue, which are well known across the county and well known to many Councillors.
“There should be positive discrimination shown to native dwellers and to persons with a long association with the countryside.”
As for his immediate plans, Mr Coughlan stated: “My first action as chairman of Waterford ICSA is to send a very clear message to all parties contesting the local elections in June.
“The price of the farming vote in Waterford is the defence of farmers’ interests, not the party line or soft talk.”