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Speech by Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle at the Teagasc/FBD Student of

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to be joined by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith, this morning to present the Teagasc /FBD student of the year awards.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to be joined by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith, this morning to present the Teagasc /FBD student of the year awards. It is a credit to you, the nine finalists in the competition, that the date for this event is firmly pencilled into the Minister’s diary every year. It’s an acknowledgment of your achievements and recognition for the standards you have achieved to reach the final of the student of the year, placing you among the top agriculture students in the country. Irish farming needs well trained, highly skilled young people entering the farming and agriculture industry.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of FBD as sponsors of these awards over the years. FBD have supported these awards since their inception, and that’s well over 20 years ago at this stage, demonstrating their long term commitment to agriculture, not just in the past, but through these awards, their commitment to the next generation of young farmers.

We have heard plenty over the last few days about the unsustainable property business and the unsustainable approach taken by the banks to that sector. It has left behind a sorry mess, with all of us having to pick up the pieces and it places a heavy load for the next generation to carry.

The agriculture industry is very different. There has been no overnight success, no quick cash to be made and I don’t need to tell you that it’s not a get-rich-quick business. However, it is a business that requires hard work and hard graft. It requires well trained committed people in it and requires careful business planning to utilise scarce, precious financial resources.

But most importantly farming is a solid, sustainable business that will survive and prosper in the future. It’s a business that will be there for the next generation to work in. And I say that fully acknowledging the income difficulties encountered by many farmers last year due to low product prices, particularly for milk and grain. However, long term, farming and the agriculture industry are sustainable businesses. Our food processing sector is competitive internationally and successfully exports our food products into Europe and markets further a field. This export led business can provide a good living for those engaged in the sector.

More and more people are, once again, recognising this, and are returning to our agriculture colleges and regional education centres to pursue a career in agriculture and avail of our education courses.

The numbers of students attending Teagasc courses have increased each year for the last three years. In fact they are up by 76% in that period. Last year 1,480 new students enrolled bringing the total numbers participating in Teagasc courses to 3,200. The latest indications are that the trend will continue for the next academic year, with increased applications for courses. We expect higher numbers of students in the colleges this September for the 2010/11 academic year, which presents its own challenges of us in Teagasc. But we are continuously looking at the way we do our business and are striving to provide students with the highest quality courses. In the last year we have restructured the way we are organised to deliver these courses.

I mentioned earlier the sponsors FBD, but I would also like to thank the judges, Hugh Ryan representing FBD, Michael Gowing, President of Macra Na Feirme and my colleague Larry Kennedy representing Teagasc. They had the difficult and unenviable job of deciding on who wins the awards. The standard in this competition is always high and this year has been no different, and you are to be commended on that. You are a great credit to your families and I wish you all well in your future careers.

Thank you very much for your attention, and like you, I am eagerly awaiting the announcement of the Student of the Year in a few minutes time.

View Press Release of Donegal Farmer is Teagasc Student of the Year 2009