I will fight for farm incomes in every sector and every part of Ireland – Joe Healy

The new IFA President, Joe Healy, has said that farm incomes will be his priority during his term of office.

In his inaugural speech today (Wednesday) in IFA HQ at Bluebell, he said that he would fight for farm incomes in every sector and in every part of Ireland.

“Our single biggest challenge is farm incomes. 2016 is proving to be an extremely difficult year and farm incomes are too low and unsustainable.

“I want to assure you that tackling the farm income crisis is my number one priority.”

“Farm incomes will be top of my agenda when I meet the Minister for Agriculture. Politicians need to get serious and recognise that there is a real income crisis on Irish farms. I want to see a dedicated Minister with sole responsibility for Agriculture and Food in the new Government.”

“It is totally unacceptable that farmers, who do most of the work in producing high-quality food, are receiving a price below the cost of production.

“There is unrelenting downward pressure by powerful retailers and processors on farm prices. This is not sustainable. Based on what consumers are paying, farmers are entitled to more. This means a viable price above the cost of production and a fair return on work and investment.”

Joe Healy said there is an urgent need for a rebalancing of power in the food supply chain. “The aggressive behaviour of dominant retailers towards smaller suppliers, particularly vegetable, fruit and potato growers must be stopped.”

Joe Healy on IFA

Joe Healy also pledged to bring trust, transparency and credibility to the heart of IFA and to strengthen governance and transparency.

“IFA is demanding the effective enforcement of the new Grocery Regulations. Contracts must be effective, complaints must be investigated and offenders prosecuted. We will continue to push for stronger legislation to include an independent ombudsman, and a ban on below cost selling.

“In Brussels, the Irish Government must support the Commission proposal that all large multinationals, including retailers and processors, will be obliged to publish their profits in each member state.”

Members have been let down by failiers in governance, transparency, he said. “Farmers need a strong IFA. We must resolve the structural failures that led to the events of the recent months.”

Trust, he said, transparency and credibility has to be at the heart of the IFA going forward

“As your new President I am determined to lead a united and strong organisation, totally committed to putting farmers first.”

The new IFA President said the Lucey report outlined a number of recommendations. These will be implemented and IFA governance will be strengthened and transparency will be maximised.

Joe Healy set out a number of new initiatives:

  • Full financial accounts will be placed before the AGM every year and put on the IFA website, for all members.
  • The Remuneration Committee will set the payment levels for the President and Director General and these will be made publicly available.
  • Neither the President nor Director General will be members of this committee.
  • The process for the appointment of a new Director General and a review of the levy will begin immediately.
  • This will be followed by a comprehensive review of all areas of income and expenditure.
  • As part of this, a review of pay and working conditions at all levels will be undertaken.
  • On governance, Joe Healy said every elected officer will have clear roles and responsibilities. “I want to see a reinvigorated and vibrant branch network, meeting more frequently and feeding into the County Executives. The county representatives will bring the views forward into their National Committees, which are critical to developing and pursuing policy.”

He said that the IFA structure of voluntary leadership, backed by professional and dedicated staff, is a unique and powerful mix. This teamwork gives the Association real strength in representing farmers at local, national and international level.

IFA Representation

Joe Healy said IFA represents farmers across all sectors and all regions. “Our structures must ensure that we fully represent the needs of all farmers. Where there are specific issues affecting smaller groups of farmers, these will be taken on board.”

The new IFA President announced that he was taking two initiatives to strengthen representation: the re-establishment of the National Animal Health Committee with a broad brief to cover all areas of Animal Health and Welfare and a full National Committee combining Hill and all other Designated Areas, with the Chairman having a full seat on Council.

Farmers who have their land sterilised and devalued absolutely deserve full representation on the Council of IFA. The recently-launched IFA campaign for ‘No Designation Without Compensation’ will be stepped up.

Splinter Groups

Healy made special mention of smaller sectors, including pig farmers, tillage farmers and hill farmers. He said country of origin labelling would be used and the DNA scheme to ensure a better return for pig farmers. Poultry farmers he said would see IFA continue to work for them, especially to break into new export markets.