Comment: It’s time to reform the way our farming organisations are funded
Well done Strathroy Dairies. Courtesy of the bit of the business the company has just completed with its new group of dairy farmers in the Wexford area, they have managed to expose the soft underbelly of Irish agriculture that is the system of producer levies paid to the various farming organisations. Voluntary in principle the reality is that the vast majority of Irish farmers may be unaware of just how much money they pay towards the upkeep of the various farm lobby groups when they sell an animal in a mart, put a beast up a kill line or supply milk to the creamery.
The reality is that the sums of money involved amount to €millions on an annual basis. Irish farmers are being told – and rightly so – that they should scrutinise every cent they lay out when it comes to running their businesses. So if this principle holds when it comes to paying for feed fertiliser and fuel: it should also be relevant when it come to the contributions they make to our farming organisations.
The most obvious starting point to this debate is for each individual farmer to ask the question: are the processors deducting these voluntary levies at source? If the answer to this question is ‘yes’ then the producer can ask the next obvious question: do I really want this money coming off my cheque in the first place?
For those farmers paying the levy at the present time, it would be well worth their while to take out all the statements they have received over the past twelve months from the processors and work out how much has been removed from their cheques by way of these voluntary levies. In most cases, it could well turn out to be quite a significant amount of money.
Don’t get me wrong, all the farm lobby groups have a role to play when it comes to fighting the corner of Irish farmers. But this is the Twenty First century and surely, they should be expected to be totally transparent when it comes to identifying all the sources of funding they receive and how they spend it. For example, as far as I am aware, the various lobby organisations do not supply individual farmers with an annual statement, detailing the contributions they have made. This is a scandalous state of affairs and is one which the relevant organisations should address as a matter of priority.