On the eve of the roundtable discussion on the future of the beef sector, the IFA has said it is always reviewing how it is funded.

Speaking to Agriland this week, IFA President Eddie Downey said that while meat factories facilitate the collection of the levy, they don’t collect it for the organisation. “It’s a voluntary levy from farmers. I’m quite happy to see it handled in a different way.”

He said the organisation has to be funded to allow it deal with whatever situation arises. “It is a very professional organisation that represents farmers very well. The one thing we have to be at all times is well funded, so whatever the situation that arises, we can deal with it.” He added that the levy has not influenced IFA policy ever and never will.

However, he said it is always keeping the method of funding and the manner in which the organisation is funded under review, but said it is an ‘aside’ issue at the moment. “We have a crisis here and you must take the levy out of the picture, as that’s an emotive issue. So, you must take the emotion out of the picture and say ‘what should we do at this moment in time as an organisation that will help improve the situation on the ground from a farmers’ point of view?’

The response, from farmers, on this, he said was to drive live exports and get access to the Northern Irish market.

Regarding tomorrow’s meeting of stakeholders, he said there are questions to be asked of all the stakeholders, but said it is inaction by the Minister that has let the situation drag on until now.

With regard to beef prices, he said it all boils down to margin and there must be a margin in the system for farmers. “These farmers are signed up to Bord Bia quality assurance schemes, while some have contracts with factories. They are committed to the industry and have delivered the animals required.” He said lack of communication in the industry was a serious issue, and factories need to communicate with farmers what animals they can market. 

“I want them to tell us what they can market. This is not what they did with their communication. They told us if you don’t produce this type of animal, we will penalise you…they have a preference for some animals, so let’s show us a preference in the price and in the planned co-ordinated sort of way.”