IFA presidential candidates 2013, the first debate

IFA ELECTIONS 2013: A question and answers debate took place between the house and IFA candidates Jer Bergin and Eddie Downey at last night’s first hustings of the IFA Elections 2013 at the Young Farmer of the Year Awards.

The candidates were questioned on a range of topics including land mobility, pensions and the banking systems. Questioned on the topic of farmer’s pensions Bergin said: “Whatever bill you pay at the end of the year, pay the PRSI contribution, because it’s the best and purest form of pension out there at the moment.”

The candidates were then questioned on issues facing ageing farmers. Downey said: “I have a problem with early retirement scheme. At 55 years of age you have to walk away from your farm. I’m 52. In three years’ time I have no intention of retiring at 55. I have an intention of transferring to my son Patrick. It’s not succession, or inheritance, its progression. Develop that farm through the process of progression.”

Banking

Issues with the banking system were brought up by the crowd of young farmers. Questioned on leasing problems Downey said: “You can lease land and transfer it by inheritance to a family member tax free, but if you try sell that land on the open market you get taxed on it. We have to change that, because we need to encourage people to lease that land as much as possible. The norm over Europe and the next step for Ireland is foreign banks, and they’re well used to operating on leased land and giving money to farmers.”

When questioned on banking issues facing Irish farmers Bergin answered: “If I’m elected the president of the IFA my first call will be to the Taoiseach and Minister of Finance. With the right price and the right policies we will get more growth for that money and more jobs and more export and more income.”

Funding

When questioned on the subject of funding schemes and how they can be of assistance to young farmers, Bergin answered “Any unused funds, we need to make sure they don’t go back to Brussels. We’re not near far enough in supporting young farmers. Not all the land in this country can be put into dairy nor should all the land in this country be put into dairy. Money needs to go into the hands of farmers who work their land. Money was thrown away on the basis just because you had land.”

Downey agreed with Bergin’s answer. “Jer (Bergin) is absolutely right, money is there. If the money is not used let’s make sure it doesn’t go back to the government. If young farmers can get their hands on it I’ll support it.”

Land access

Bergin also answered questions on land mobility, noting: “Society has changed, marriage break down all that type of stuff. Parents worry now about handing onto the next generation. A leasing option that works within the family might be a bridge towards getting over those issues and making sure everybody is happy about what happens.”

The elections take place this December.