Macra na Feirme will need a budgetary increase of at least 20% over the coming years in order to meet rising compliance costs for non-profit organisations, Macra CEO Denis Duggan has cautioned.

As a charity, the representative body for Ireland’s young farmers and rural young people aged between 17-35 years, is subject to a raft of stringent regulation fees, including: data protection; Companies Act 2014; and other charity regulations.

Meeting necessary compliance bills can often amount to hundreds of thousands of euros, Duggan explained.

Although he emphasised that Macra “fully understands and recognises” the importance of code of practice, governance, transparency and general regulation, he is concerned about the long-term impact of such costs to member services on the ground.

“It’s not so much about the money; it’s about having the capability to meet the challenges that are on the immediate horizon.

We’re in the perfect storm of funding cuts over a number of years; and now there are significant costs of compliance.

“The impact runs, not into tens, but hundreds of thousands of euros for quite a lot of organisations out there; we are no different.

“We need a significant increase in our budget. Percentage wise we are probably looking at a 20% increase just to meet regulatory compliance,” Duggan told AgriLand at the launch of Macra na Feirme’s new Strategic Plan for 2017-2023 at Leinster House today.

The report, titled ‘Rurally Active, Engaging and Transforming‘ sets out a vision for the organisation that will ensure it adapts to a changing rural landscape; and to ensure it can serve the needs of Ireland’s rural youth.

The plan is divided into two parts – one for the organisation and one for the rural communities it serves. The vision refers to the place where the organisation wishes to reach over the next six years. Duggan said it will act “as a guiding star” for the organisation’s activities.

It is understood that around 50% of Macra’s current budget comes from state funds – primarily from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. It is understood that this figure is in the region of €500,000.

However, the rural youth organisation – which currently represents over 9,000 members in almost 200 clubs nationwide – is spending upwards of €200,000 annually in order to comply with various regulation costs.

Macra na Feirme CEO, Denis Duggan, is concerned that meeting such high costs under current budget limitations will have “a potentially serious impact” on member services.

If there was one ask [of the government], it would be to look into the budget for 2019 and see if there would be scope to consider these concerns.

“Macra is almost 75-years-old; its structure and processes are almost 75 years old. The challenge that lies ahead is now in complying with modern governance company law.

“Where other organisations may have had an incremental approach, we now have a huge body of work to do,” he said.

Young Farmer Skillnet

Duggan highlighted his vision to grow the organisation’s successful Young Farmer Skillnet programme – which is funded by the Department of Education – over the coming years.

“We have the ambition to grow that programme substantially. It is very much demand driven in responding to the training and workplace needs of members within the organisation, and outside the organisation too.

“Looking and speaking to colleagues across other organisations, we are all faced with the same challenges. Over the next two to three years, it’s an increase of €200,000 to €300,000 that we are looking at,” he said.

“We’re not opposed to any of the regulations. I think they are hugely important, and hugely relevant, it’s just who is going to pay for them? Paying for them is an issue that is impacting on the entire sector and that is the biggest challenge that lies ahead,” he concluded.