Opinion

What does the term ‘voluntary levy’ actually mean?

January is fast approaching: so here’s a suggestion that might help those farmers who traditionally have problems coming up with New Year resolutions.

It’s a fact of life that levies are applied in the context of almost every commercial interaction that takes place within the agri space. Some of these are mandatory – and must be paid.

But a significant number of the levies applied are voluntary in nature.

The contributions made by farmers to the IFA, ICBF and the National Dairy Council levies immediately come to mind in this regard.

So what I am suggesting is that every Irish farmer should sit down over the coming weeks, examine all the receipts on-file and work out from these what has been ‘voluntarily’ deducted on his various live cattle, beef, sheep, milk and pig sales over the past year.

And the same exercise should be carried out, where inputs are concerned.

My bet is the figures involved could well be very substantial.  So the question then arises: what are farmers actually getting back for the investment they are making in these various organisations?

In truth, this is specific information which each of the levy beneficiaries should be willing to volunteer on a regular basis, without people like me having to ask the question in the first place.

Levies should be regarded as investments made by farmers. But if these very same producers feel that they are not getting value-for-money, then they have every right to withdraw their support.

But before getting to that stage, farmers need the information that is required to allow them make decisions on these matters.

And in the same vein as me suggesting that every farmer should work out his totally voluntary levy contribution each year, it behoves the recipient organisations to give a full breakdown of the monies they receive from producers and then detail how this is spent.

These steps should be taken on an annual basis.

I think the total income generated by way of levies may well be put out in the public domain by the organisations in question: the real issue is that of how the money is actually spent on farmers’ behalf.

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