A leading farm lobby group has blasted the Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for commenting that vulture funds are “easier to deal with” than banks.

Joe Healy, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said he was “extremely disappointed” to hear the remarks made by junior Minister for Finance Michael D’Arcy.

Continuing, the president said that the vulture funds are “faceless” and “have no understanding of farming”. Healy referred to the tactics of the vulture funds as “feeding on the carcass of the family farm”.

“It’s a cause for concern that somebody in elected office would have such a view as people would be relying on him to sort this out,” Healy said.

It’s a cop-out to say vulture funds don’t need to be regulated. They do, and the Government needs to make it happen.

Healy acknowledged that it can be difficult to deal with banks but added that, because they are interested in new business, they have to be mindful of how they treat their existing customers.

IFA Farm Business chairman Martin Stapleton said that debt restructuring should be based on the repayment capacity.

“Farm families should be given the chance to repay their debts over a longer term to keep the farm intact,” he said.

“Farmers are particularly vulnerable because the security tends to be far higher in relation to the value of the loan in comparison to other small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

The IFA is opposed to any attempt by vulture funds to force farm families to sell their farms to settle debts, Stapleton added.

The chairman said 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.

The IFA has claimed it is standing behind farmers who are committed to implementing a credible solution. It believes farmers must be allowed to repay their debts over an appropriate time frame.