President Higgins: "Farming needs to be protected as a way of life"

This year's National Ploughing Championships are getting underway in Screggan, Co Offaly

President Higgins: "Farming needs to be protected as a way of life"

Image: Sean Defoe

President Michael D Higgins has said that farming has to be protected as a way of life.

Speaking at the opening of the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan in Co Offaly, President Higgins says farming needs to be viewed as more than a sector.

Around 300,000 people are expected to attend the annual event over the next three days.

More than 300 competitors, meanwhile, are set to park part in the ploughing itself.

Over €36 million was spent at last year's championships, and these farmers say they visit every year:

Ahead of the official opening, President Higgins met some of those taking part.

Speaking to reporters, the President said we need a better balance to our economic development.

He observed: "Farming will not accidentally survive - farming needs to be protected as a way of life [...] If you lose rural viability, you're also creating an urban diseconomy.

"If you lose infrastructure, if you lose banks and post offices and services and so forth, at the same time your population is overcrowding into cities that may not have the best planning.

"So you're getting rural depopulation, and urban diseconomies."

He added: "I think it's time to think about regions again - and very particularly to good regional interventions to take account of the different circumstances in different aspects of farming, agriculture and the food sector."

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice