The vice-chair of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) in Kerry is considering stepping down due to what he claims is the inaction of “top brass ” in the organisation.

Last night (Tuesday, May 25), John Joe Fitzgerald contacted IFA county officers in Kerry to inform them that he was also considering leaving the organisation entirely.

The west Kerry sheep farmer has been vice-chair of Kerry IFA since March 2021 and has been a member of the association for over a decade.

County officers in Kerry IFA have urged Fitzgerald to hold off on making a final decision until they hold a meeting to discuss the issues raised.

IFA top brass

“I took the decision yesterday evening that I have to leave IFA and step down as Kerry vice chair because it is doing my own head in,” Fitzgerald told Agriland.

“There are people relying on me to do something for them and I am getting nowhere. It’s absolutely frustrating what is going on at the moment.

“What’s bothering me more than anything else is the top brass in IFA. There seems to be a total disconnect with farmers and what farmers are going through on the ground.

“Since the start of the war in Ukraine, we are severely under pressure with input costs. It’s coming from sheep farmers, sucklers, beef and the small dairy farmers. Nobody is listening to us.

“We’re all trying to help each other out at county level, but when it goes to national level absolutely nothing is happening,” Fitzgerald added.

Input costs

The sheep farmer said that one of the biggest issues facing farmers this year is input costs, in particular the price of fertiliser.

He said that the IFA leadership needs to have a “sense of urgency” when dealing with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

“They need to be knocking on the department’s door and the Taoiseach’s door and say, ‘small farmers are very much under pressure to deal with input costs’.

“The big dairy men, it’s good for them, they have milk to sell. The co-ops will back them. But the likes of us small farmers, we were always depending on credit from our local merchants. They can’t give us that this year.

“The top table of IFA needs to go to the minister [for agriculture] and say, ‘our members are suffering. Some of them are suicidal as they are under so much pressure’.

“We feel like we have been thrown under the bus and completely forgotten about,” he added.

Pointing to local issues, Fitzgerald said that it took IFA 18 months to secure a meeting with Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys to discuss the problem of dogs attacks on farmland.

“They need to step up to the mark. They’re getting well paid for doing it. Even with the pay rise they got lately and farmers suffering on the ground.

“It’s the sheer frustration. We’re trying to do good. We have farmers approaching us that are in serious difficulties and we can’t do nothing for them because it is taking too long. The lackadaisical approach of the top brass in the IFA is just unreal.

“I have no personal agenda in IFA, I just want to help farmers on the ground – that’s the way I conduct myself,” he continued.

“We need to get back to basics in IFA, we need to look after our small farmers. Small farmers are like part of the biodiversity, they have to be there. They need to be looked after and supported,” Fitzgerald concluded.