Farmer representation on the board of the Irish Farm Film Producer Group (IFFPG) came under the Oireachtas spotlight this week at the latest Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Speaking to IFFPG CEO Liam Maloney at the meeting yesterday (Tuesday, June 30), independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice asked what farming groups were represented on the IFFPG board.

Upon hearing that the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is on the board, the Roscommon-Galway TD quizzed are there not more farming groups in the country, stating:

“Are there not more farming groups around the country? I’m looking at the make-up of your board and in fairness to the IFA, there are six from the industry, two from the farming organisations and two independent members.

“Is it not heavily loaded with plastics experts as against representatives of the farmers that are actually paying all of the money at both ends of this – when you buy it per tonne, obviously [the plastic recycling levy] built into the price of a roll of plastic and that’s understandable, and when they’re sending it.

“Would you not consider that we would have a representative from all the different farmer organisations first of all, but that the board would be made up [by] half farmers and half industry at least?”

In response to this, Maloney said: “It’s a producer responsibility organisation so I think that it’s appropriate that the majority of the members on the board represent the producers.

“The farmers are very well represented through the IFA, and in my 13 or 14 years with the IFFPG, we haven’t been approached by any other farming representative body looking for representation on the board.”

Deputy Fitzmaurice pressed the matter at the Oireachtas meeting, asking: “If the farmers are paying all the money, which they are, would it not be fair to the farmers of this country that they’d have equal representation at least on something that’s first of all a price that’ll be set on each year in relation to the plastics and on top of that that they would have an input into that when they are paying at the beginning and at the end?”

In his reply, the IFFPG CEO said: “We would say that farmers are very ably represented by the IFA at the moment and in terms of our relationship with farmers I think it’s all about that service that we provide to them, and I think that service is a very high quality.

“I think farmers have bought into our service and are very happy with it in terms of the cost and convenience of using our service.

“The figures are there to support that; we achieved an 80% recycling rate last year; 34,500t of material collected, so I would say that farmers have been very well represented on our board at the moment and are receiving a very good service from us.”

Turning to a related matter, deputy Fitzmaurice brought up the levels of farm plastic that are in the country, stating:

“I don’t know whether it’s plastic that the levies are being paid on, but you noted the last day in fairness to you, I asked the question about plastic coming across the border, which is hard to put a figure on and I understand that fully.

“But I would think that it would be a worthwhile exercise that the department needs to do – and I would presume you would agree – that we need to go around and see how much plastic is around the country. Because, going by the figures I’m looking at, there’s an awful lot more.

“You dispute, you say there’s only 10 or 11,000t – I’ve to take your word on that – but we need to get on top of this.”

The TD asked whether the AES plastic recycling plant at Littleton, Co. Tipperary “will solve a lot of headaches in the plastic industry” if they reach expected targets, to which Maloney said it would, adding:

“I think AES represent potentially a major part of the solution – and certainly we’re very impressed with how they’ve operated over the last four or five weeks.

“If they keep going along those lines I think they’re going to be an important part of that solution going forward,” the CEO concluded.