‘Faceless vultures are hell-bent on destroying farm families’

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has announced a significant escalation in its campaign against vulture funds trying to force farm families to sell their farms to settle debts.

At a briefing in Dublin today (April 25), IFA president Joe Healy said the body would oppose any forced sale of farms by vulture funds where the farmer is willing to implement a credible solution.

Healy said he would be asking the farming community to “stand together” and “stand back” from any forced sale.

The faceless funds – which have no understanding of farming – are hell-bent on destroying families while feeding on the carcass of the family farm.

Healy said the work of the Debt Support Service – established by the association 12 months ago – has become increasingly frustrated by the tactics of the vulture funds, which are forcing a quick farm sale without the agreement of the farmer.

Repayment capacity

The basis for the next phase of the IFA’s campaign is that debt restructuring should be based on the repayment capacity.

Farm families should be given the time to repay their debts over a longer term to keep the farm intact.

“It is not acceptable for vulture funds to force a sale of land and cash in debts they have bought from a bank when there is a viable alternative,” he said.

L-R: Damian McDonald, IFA director general; IFA president Joe Healy; and Martin Stapleton, IFA Farm Business Committee chairman. Image source: Karen Morgan

Martin Stapleton, the IFA’s Farm Business Committee chairman, said the campaign is standing behind farmers who are committed to implementing a credible solution.

“It is designed to protect farmers from vulture funds which want to get their money immediately. Farmers must be allowed to repay their debts over an appropriate time frame,” he said.

Campaign principles

The farm body has outlined a number of key principles to bolster its ramped-up campaign.

These include:
  • Saying clearly to potential buyers that they should not bid on land forcibly sold by vulture funds without the permission of the farmer who is willing to commit to a repayment plan;
  • Solicitors, auctioneers and advertisers will be called on not to engage in forced sale transactions where the farmer is genuinely trying to put a credible repayment plan in place;
  • Continuing to challenge the political system to change our laws to regulate what vulture funds can do, and to protect borrowers.

Stapleton said Cerberus/Promontoria is a multi-billion dollar international fund with just one arm that  specialises in dealing with distressed debt.

The Ulster Bank loan sales to Cerberus/Promontoria has created an enormous problem – both because of the number of cases and the increasing level of aggression with which they are dealing with our farmers.

“Link Asset Services, which is managing the loans on behalf of Promontoria, has simply refused point blank to engage with us,” he said.

Martin Stapleton stated that if a proposed loan sale by AIB were to go ahead on similar terms, it would be “catastrophic”.

IFA has written to AIB asking for farmers to be excluded from any loan sale and has requested a meeting to discuss this. The request has been accepted and the meeting will take place shortly.