‘Going to war on behalf of farmers’: Cullinan declares IFA election intentions

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) national treasurer Tim Cullinan has declared his intention to become the next president of the IFA with a promise to “go to war” on behalf of Irish farmers.

Confirming his intention to run in the forthcoming election at event in Toomevara, Co. Tipperary this evening, Friday, July 26, Cullinan said it is time to fight for farmers and their future.

The treasurer said that he has never seen so many incomes as challenged and farm families as concerned as they are now.

Address

In his address to supporters in Toomevara, the married father of two said that whether it’s processors, retailers, government or the EU, with him as IFA president, “those responsible for putting farmers on the breadline can expect a fight like they’ve never experienced before from Irish farmers”.

Quite simply for farmers, enough is enough; it’s time to stand up for ourselves – for who we are and for what we do.

Continuing, Cullinan said: “I’ve never been afraid to take a stand. My 15 years in committees and county roles has been about making a stand, fighting for farmers – and getting results.

“If there ever was a time when this kind of action was needed on behalf of Irish farmers – it’s now.”

A veteran of IFA campaigns for more than a decade, Cullinan listed off events he was involved with over the years, including: the dioxin crisis when €140 million was sought and granted for the pig industry; the campaign to get a 12c bonus for pig; and convincing a major retailer to use 100% Irish pig meat in own-brand products.

As county chair, he noted his involvement in a high-profile campaign to redress disproportionate inspections in his native Tipperary which saw farmers fined up to €1.2 million between 2010 and 2015, involving a sit-in at the local department offices.

However, he said, the current crisis hitting farmers is “unprecedented”.

“The assault on farming is coming from all quarters. We’re not taking it. It’s unacceptable and it’s grossly unfair”.

It’s time to use the biggest asset we have – the strength of the IFA and the strength of our 72,000 members to fight our case.

“The IFA must stand up for farmers. That’s our job and I intend to use all the resources of the biggest farming organisation in this country to deliver for farmers.”

Priorities

In terms of priorities, the candidate stressed the importance of the €100 million Brexit fund going to “those farmers who need help”, adding that “factories’ hands must be kept well away” from it.

On the beef grid system, he said: “I believe the grid system could be costing farmers up to €30 million a year, an unacceptable and unbearable cost for them. The grid as it now stands has to go.

“I’m now looking for a complete review of what I believe is a sham of a system that has been in place for 10 years,” he stated.

Regarding the recent proposal to reduce the suckler herd, Cullinan highlighted that the matter is a “global debate”.

China, India, Russia, the United States, Brazil and Indonesia alone account for over 50% of the emissions in the world.

“Our farmers are for progress and we’ll play our part – we’ve shown that time and time again. But we’re not going to be the soft target – not by anyone, not from any quarter.”

On Mercosur, the treasurer highlighted the “double standards” being allowed by the European Commission, and pledged to build alliances with French and Italian farmers in Europe to stop the deal.

On the dairy sector, Cullinan rejected calls to stop expanding, while on sheep he said:

Factories are using the massive drop in sterling to bring cheap lambs from the north to collapse prices. In 2018, southern factories brought almost a half a million lambs in from Northern Ireland.

“Factories have to realise that we will not allow a situation to continue where factories are making large profits from bringing in lambs while our own sheep farmers are making none – and are going broke.”

Turning to tillage, he called out the drinks and whiskey industry “to pay a proper premium to growers” of sustainably-produced Irish malting barley.

Below-cost selling

Ending on a warning for retailers on below-cost selling, Cullinan said: “Retailers will only respond to targeted action with facts and figures, and effective IFA publicity does deliver results.

“And in this fight to prevent below-cost selling I will lead the toughest campaign that they’ve ever experienced,” he vowed.

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