Presidential candidate in the ongoing Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) elections John Coughlan has this morning said he supports the end goal of the farmers protesting in Dublin.

The Co. Cork beef, tillage and dairy farmer said: “Farmer protests are a demonstration of the frustration and fear of farm families up and down the country.”

Commenting on the second day of protests in Dublin, Coughlan said: “Many thousands more up and down the country share their frustrations. This is about fair prices for hard working farm families.

While the manner in which these frustrations are being expressed can be questioned, the motivations behind them are understandable.

Commenting on the beef taskforce, he said: “What beef farmers have now is a toothless taskforce. It failed to read the mood of farm families. Since its abandoned first meeting, it has failed to get the players back in the room.”

He claimed the Government “is hiding behind a bureaucratic blanket” and added that it is “playing into the hands of meat processors who are only too keen to capitalise on delays as an excuse to keep prices low”.

To restore trust and avoid situations like we are seeing, I repeat what I called for in my letter to the chair of the taskforce in October.

“Compliance with the spirit of the strand one benefits of the original Beef Sector Agreement must be established alongside clarification on the status of legal injunctions,” the IFA candidate outlined.

Coughlan further outlined that the beef taskforce chair – Michael Dowling – needs to put forward specific meeting dates and times “to get everyone back around the table”.

Widening rural/urban gap

The IFA presidential candidate also drew attention to the widening rural/urban gap and said it is “a risk to Irish society”.

He said: “We are seeing an increasingly urbane mindset take root. Farmers are proving useful scapegoats for those that are failing to take a solutions-based approach to the challenge of climate change.

Farmers are the guardians of the environment and are ideally placed to achieve the types of changes we all want to see.

“That requires investment and meaningful policy measures, such as the proposals I have put forward for a Green Farmer Fund ringfenced from carbon tax revenues.

Commenting on the issue of farmer unity, Coughlan said: “A fractioning farm community is bad for farmers. Together, farmers are stronger. A disconnect has seeped in between the IFA and those it should serve.

As a result, we cannot be surprised by ongoing events. The IFA must change meaningfully.

“Arrogance and anger will only fracture us further.”

Concluding, Coughlan said: “Farm unity can only happen if we take actions that are responsive to farmers’ needs, with an openness to collaborating with all farmers and others who share a farmer-focused mindset.”