SC Commissioner Weathers: Ireland and Agriculture

We’re welcoming Commissioner Hugh Weathers back from a trip to Europe. Today he’s going to tell us about his talks with Irish trade and agriculture officials and his tours around Ireland.

  • Ireland has roughly the same population as South Carolina, but a lot more farmers –135,000 farms in Ireland, and roughly 24,600 in South Carolina.
  • Irish population is more sensitive to agricultural concerns.
  • But Ireland is a member of the European Union, and the EU’s sustainability goals are sometimes a challenge for farmers.
  • While there, I met with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
    • Heard concern over a potential energy crisis this coming winter.
  • There are some potential opportunities to expand trade. In particular, Ireland raises and exports a lot of beef, so they import a lot of livestock feed.
  • I visited two agricultural projects in rural Ireland:
    • One was in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, where the European Union has funded a grazing project aimed at sustainability and climate mitigation. Farmer-led groups are working with landowners to manage sheep and cattle grazing in a way that limits overgrazing, make sure land doesn’t go ungrazed, and mitigates the overuse that can occur from recreation.
    • I also explored a project called Social Farming Ireland, where farmers volunteer to have local citizens with “additional needs” (in this country we use the term “special needs”) take on some responsibilities on the farm. As the grandfather of a 2-year-old with Down syndrome, this project was near to my heart. The land is a great teacher, and we can all benefit from it.
    • I’ll never forget hearing “Molly Malone” (the unofficial anthem of Dublin) sung by a group of participants in the program.
  • Blanche and I also paid a “non-work” visit to Belgium, which was something special.  
  • Great to be back in South Carolina!