IFA members in the Ulster/North Leinster region will be going to the polls over the coming weeks to elect a new chairperson for the area.

This is the only election that will take place in IFA this time around, as all other regional chairs, as well as the current national president and deputy president, were the only candidates elected in the respective races and were thus returned unopposed.

Two candidates are in the running for the Ulster/North Leinster chairmanship: Frank Brady, former chairperson of Monaghan IFA; and John Curran, the current chairperson of Meath IFA.

Agriland spoke to both candidates to get their views on the main issues in agriculture at the moment, and what their priorities would be if successfully elected.

In this article, we speak to John Curran. For our article on Frank Brady, click here.

Curran’s farm enterprise stretches across counties Meath and Westmeath. He farms with his wife and three daughters.

He has a mixed farm, with suckler cows, beef cattle, mid-season lambing ewes, organic oats and a small poultry (turkey) enterprise. Curran has been farming “from scratch” since 1997 and has been faming organically since 2007.

He says that he bases his farm business model on three key points: obtaining premium price for his produce; engaging with all available farm schemes; and minimising input costs.

He drew particular attention to farm schemes, saying they are “essential to the viability of many farms”, and stating that, if elected, he would “fight to maintain and improve them because they are the lifeblood of many livestock farms”.

“What I want to bring to the role is leadership and direction and I want to go out on the ground and listen to people’s views. Currently I’m Meath county chairperson, and I came from the grassroots in Meath IFA.

“In the Ulster/North Leinster region there are seven counties involved, and I have been around all the counties. I have a very good relationship built with the current county chairpeople and I want to work with those chairpeople to find out the issues in their counties; and take the issues on board and bring them to national level,” Curran said.

According to the Meath IFA chair, the biggest issue at the minute is “uncertainty”.

He highlighted: “We’re in a time of change with CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] reform, and also climate change is top of the agenda. We have a lot of new proposals coming down on top of us. People don’t really understand what they mean. The people making them up don’t even understand what they mean.

“The research hasn’t been done on climate change and the emissions to know what we [farmers] need to do to have an effect.”

He also highlighted the proposed tightening of rules under the Nitrates Action Plan (NAP), saying it would be a big concern for more intensive dairy farmers, who will be concerned over slurry storage, spreading dates and stocking rates.

On top of all that, Curran is also concerned over input price trends.

“The latest problem to arise only recently is input costs. Particularly the price of fertiliser. Next year the price of fertiliser is going to be maybe treble the price what it is this year.

“Farmers are extremely worried how they’re going to pay for this fertiliser, and in some cases they may not be able to get it. Will they need to sell stock? Will they need to grow less crops? They just don’t know what way to approach this input cost issue,” he stressed.

The solution to these issues, according to Curran, is effective lobbying.

“IFA is a lobby organisation. We lobby ministers, we lobby government departments, we lobby at EU level… That’s were it has to go, especially on input costs. You have to lobby at EU level, lobby your local MEPs and, on the national front, lobby your TDs,” he said.

Curran concluded that his ambition is “basically keeping families on farms”.