Live: IFA election debate from Mullingar

11:20 PM

And that’s all for tonight guys! Thanks for tuning in!

11:13 PM

One minute each to wrap up why anyone with a vote should cast it for them…

Henry…this is a unique election and says a fair amount of experience has been lost from the organisation. When you think of experience yes you think of them being a farmer, but it’s IFA we have to lead now and an understanding of how famers expect to be represented, from local to national level and delivering. that’s something I have experience in doing and going to Brussels. I have the track record. I am not the least bit ashamed of being involved in IFA. You wouldn’t’ put a student in to run the farm? No you wouldn’t

Joe….thanked the crowd and hopes there is clarity. The IFA needs to constantly adapt and change to be relevant to farmers as we go forward. We need to ensure that it’s from the ground up that we have a vibrant organisation. My fellow candidates talk of their experience, but what we want is experience and delivery. Inside and outside the four walls of IFA. The next President must represent IFA in Ireland, Brussels, the media, government. I have dealt with staff, media, politicians and farmers and I have delivered in all cases. You can put a man with a broad range of experience in and that’s me, Joe Healy.

Flor….seeks your number 1 vote. I have the experience. We need unity and have a track record of delivery. There is a real danger for this organisation over the next 60 years. This is a unique situation and we have instability with the government at the moment. We need to keep farming issues at the forefront and not writing about them but getting in there and delivering on them. I can deliver for you.

11:06 PM

John Casey from Mullingar says the mart there saw UK buyers buy heavy stores for finishing. That trade is dead a number of years, so we need a live trade.

Flor – when the live buyer was down from the North it was great. The live buyer keeps the floor in the prices.

Joe – there is a need to get the issues sorted out to maximize the potential of Norther and Great Britain. The weanlings we export to the Continental market don’t suffer discrimination. Are we in a single market or not? If we are we should be able to sell cattle to the Uk and Northern Ireland.

11.8% of aniamls grade U- or better and they kill out 422 and 462kg and an R+ at 460kg v one at below the cut off at the moment, the factories are getting 46kg of beef free of charge. We can’t as organization accept that. We we accepted the grid there was no mention of weight limits.

Henry – some of the solutions are in Brussels. The English farmer are lobbying for it not to happen. There is a European label that needs to be used and we cannot say we have free competition until we have it.

Absolutely marts over there would handle them but we need to get them through to the supermarket shelves.

11:05 PM

Brexit…

Flor – massive problems for us if the UK leaves. What can the IFA do? We can encourage the UK farming organisations to stay in Euroep.

Joe – I hope the UK does not leave, dairy export are worth almost €1bn and the value of beef is over €1bn. If they do leave we need to ensure we get very special treatment, that we have a unique trading relationship.

Henry – we have been working on this and advocating to the UK farming organisation that they stay in. They have a lot to lose and we have a lot to use.

11:04 PM

FBD…if you’re on the board do you hold any shares?

Flor – I have no shares, but how did it go so wrong? All my insurance is with them and we need more transparency with FBD and its relationship with Farm Business Holdings.

Joe – there are four boards and I’m on the board of Farm Business Developments. The directors on that board get €3,947. FBD is the only Irish insurance company. For every euro that was taken in in preium there was an out payment of €1.11, so all the non-Irish companies lost 11c on every euro. I was nominated to that board.

Henry – I am a loyal customer all my life. The people who started it up did it for good reasons and it has served us very well. It’s core role was about farmers and they’re back to us although the bills are bigger. We can’t be asked to pay again for mistakes. I am not on the board and never have been,

11:03 PM

Seamus Carey, Kinnegad

A lot who finish beef cattle could do with enlightenment on the grading system. Most people can’t understand all those plusses and minues, too fat, wrong shape. It’s a penalty point system.

Flor – quality cattle are killing out at a higher weight and Friesian cattle are beating them in price. What I’m hearing on weight limits is not acceptable to me.

Henry – the grading system is based on science and I accept that not everyone likes it and that it is complex. But the other side is that for those who breed the better cattle they would get paid so. But the weight limit does not allow that happen. We did not get the support of the Minister to implement that in the last few months.

Grading and trimming – the Department will do much more monitoring of this.

10:49 PM

Those down the back are more interested in the Agriland version of events tonight!! 20160304_224651

10:41 PM

Last round of questions!

10:40 PM

Levies not going away….should the organisation move completely away from levies?

Henry – on the beef protest it was an open secret that the Gen Sec did not favour the beef protest. Not all of council agreed with it either. It was called off by the Council. If we move to membership supporting the organisation only, it could impact membership numbers, but it must be fair.

Joe – it was a very short beef protest and the lorry drivers knew we were leaving…my personal opinion on the levies – I’d love to see them done away with but I’m not foolish enough to think the org can run and deliver results with a cut of 30%+ in its income. 2016 levies will be interesting, I think it will be a lot less.

Flor – anything that affects our membership has to be well thought out and how we can raise the money…we need a well funded organisation. It’s our money that the factories are collecting. the collection fees have to be looked at and it has to be transparent.

10:26 PM

Friday fortnight past a small gathering of farmers met about an issue and people hoped there would be no new members. Rohans from Abbeyleix organized it. You’re 10 times more likely to be killed as a farmer than any other occupation.

20 farmers per week die on European farms. Europe has save the bats, birds and bees but think nothing about farmers.

We can say the farmer is responsible for his own safety but it’s a bigger issue. What priority will they put on farm safety going forward?

Joe – commodity prices, incomes, but the family that’s affected by a farm accident, especially a fatal one, income is almost irrelevant for the rest of their lives. This is a very dangerous time of the year, with low incomes and stress. There is a willy-nilly approach across Europe towards farm safety.

Henry – it’s not politically correct to mention farm income, age of farmers, there is no question in the world but if you are under pressure with income that’s a contributor to farm safety. It’s not that we go out to try and kill ourselves, but the health and safety authority are interested in our welfare. It has to be about education. We had a farm safety day on my farm last year and 70 or so farmers came to the farm. We can’t have more pressure with penalties.

Flor – we need a more enhanced scheme and we need to bring more items under the scheme. We can’t have penalties on payments. But we should have inspectors helping farmers.

10:25 PM

Quality assurance scheme – the boxes that you have to tick are increasing and the amount some famers can lose. Whoever goes in as President will they disclose what IFA is paying the factories for collecting the levies.

Joe – Quality assurance comes up every night and its not getting any positive comments. He talks about a well known Laois farmer who recently wrote about his inspection and a 69-page dossier to the audit committee and those pages corrected the things that were wrong and that wasn’t taken on board and he failed the test. If you’re going to lose the QA payment it’s a big loss. I welcome the changes being proposed at the moment.

Levies – the figures around levies have to be disclosed. €300k goes to Macra, €300k to ICMSA and the rest to IFA. One mart says they’re stopping €10k. Levies range from 0-10%.

Henry – quality assurance we are fighting it all the way and until we get it to a more manageable system we won’t sign off on it. You can be quality assured on two farms over 70 days, the question is though can you get the quality inspect bonus (people confuse it with quality assurance). I think the 70-day rule is excessive. It is quality assured, but we’re arguing for a flat QA payment coming off farms.

Levies – I am committing to within 12 months have a very open discussion in the org with a view to reforming and changing the way we collect money from farmers. We collect through processors or through membership. I am not prepared to go around in circles on it.

Flor – quality assurance has to be more farmer friendly. The 70-day clause has to be reduced. The levy will come under threat this year with lower milk and beef prices.

10:08 PM

Eunan Bannon – sheep farmers and sucklers are to be supported according to a report by Liam Alyward a few years ago. What is happening? Nothing is happening on the sheep side?

Sheep farmers are no better off today than they were in 1970.

FoodWise 2025 is about exports, nothing about how farmers will be paid for their produce. There may be more markets but will it mean more money for the farmer?

Flor – sheep issues are massive. Beef prices are falling and the €20/ewe has to be a demand, not a wish. Where we fit into FoodWise 2025 you have to wonder. Product price is top of my agenda if I’m made president.

Joe – I shear about 10,000 sheep every year and was reared with pedigree sheep. Farmers who get out of sheep don’t usually get back into them. The €20/ewe is a must.

If there is not a margin for farmers there wont’ be farmers there.

Henry – that Alyward report we pushed hard on in Brussels. And the original grassland payment came from that. It’s not there the same as Minister Coveney did not do his job well enough to keep it there. We need something like it again. The €20/ewe is fully deserved.

FoodWise 2025 – legislation on supermarkets has to be brought in or we are saying goodbye to the family farm.

10:06 PM

Question – you avoided the elephant in the room – the new Gen Secretary’s salary. (they’re saying Chief Executive, but I assume they mean the General Secretary). How will they square the circle of paying more than current very highly paid staff? Eamon Bray, an ex County Chair says he’s disappointed with Flor and Henry for allowing this situation to happen.

Flor – we thought the Gen Sec pay was linked to the Gen Sec of the Department. The overall wage bill of IFA was coming down, so nothing to red flag that one wage was out of sync.

Joe – there was no problem when the Chief Executive was linked to his equal in the Dept of Ag. The problem started in 2009. The new person if they are linked to their counterpart in the Dept of Ag. They will have to deal with the salaries of the staff. A stand will have to be made and 2 or 3 staff members may be over them (in salary). The experience needed within the IFA is about experience inside and outside the IFA, dealing with media, buyers, sellers and banks, staff and farmers.

Henry – Gen Sec pay, it’s simple – it has to be set professionally. You can’t just pull a figure out of the air. I can’t agree that we didn’t do enough. Questions were asked and answers were given. They were not the answers that turned out to be the facts. Now, clearly it has to be opened up and it has to be at an arms length from where a group of people were setting one another pay.

9:48 PM

Now, some tough questions please Co Westmeath people!!!

9:47 PM

Last but not least tonight is Henry Burns and he’s certainly passionate about IFA. IFA was set up from 67 splinter groups and no money, but genuine effort to represent farmers. Things happen because you make them happen and you have the people behind you. The whole organisation must be opened up to ensure transparency. We need IFA because of poor farm incomes. Direct action by farmers on flooding hits a positive note from the crowd here

9:33 PM

Joe Healy says we need to look at why we’re here tonight. There’s once chance to put it right. An organisation that’s governed from the ground up, not the top down. He will demand the restoration of the ANC payment to pre 2008 levels. Beef prices and labelling are touched on, while in the sheep sector the €20/ewe is a necessity.

9:26 PM

Flor is focusing on the sectors and the return to farmers. Transparency within IFA, he says, is a must. what people are earning and where the levies are going. He’s served on no board and he wants to know who puts people on boards…good round of applause for Flor

9:22 PM

I’d say the crowd is up around the 150 mark, still quite a few empties at the front

9:19 PM

Flor has been warned to slow the talking down…the Westmeath crowd may need a while to adjust to the Kerry accent he’s told!

9:15 PM

And that was the deputies…facing a fairly unengaged crowd…let’s hope it livens up a bit for the main show

9:11 PM

Main trait for the next general secretary…?

Governance – what governance restructuring will you be encouraging to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Pat – he (? women not allowed apply?) must be a good listener, a good negotiator and deliver. The Con Lucey report is a start, and one thing around part time farmers must change. When the new regime is put in place hopefully all the recommendations will be addressed.

Richard – on governance – Lucey report is a good foundation but with overall governance, I would like an expert on corporate governance to be brought in.

General Secretary – don’t know if God can make the Gen Sec Richard wants. He wants someone with an open mind, dedicated worker, person with a feel for farming and farmers. If he or she is 80% there when they are taken on, they can be made 100%. Having a degree in agriculture would be imperative.

Nigel – governance – it’s the 2nd part of his list. at the minute the Con Lucey report has responses from every county and external expertise will come in and help with it. we only have the one chance at this.

General Secretary – I would look for honesty and to support the president and deputy president. You don’t want someone who will take a notion that they don’t want to do this or that. They can give advice but not interfere.

8:59 PM

Microphone problems mean they have been abandoned

8:56 PM

Nigel being asked to explain the beef operation on his farm…

They’re also being asked about their part in high salaries and how IFA got to where it is now

Richard – the council he came from had no controversy at the time. When he went for President in 2009, his understand was that remuneration would be a farm manager. When he was dairy chairman, he got €100 per day that he paid to a man at home. Since 2010 he takes no responsibility for as he was an ordinary member.

Nigel – suckler cows, finishing beef and a large poultry unit on his farm. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going with the sucklers, or the beef, he says. The beef factories once they get 30k head of beef famers are going to get screwed. His opinion is that friesian bull calves are exported if the price is feasible to get them out. he’d like to see live exports going as well. We’re not getting any money finishing beef and if we’re producing a premium product, we should be getting a premium price.

Pat – has been on Council since 2008. The previous general secretary there was never a problem as he was delivering for famers. The last General Secretary was interfering in committees and saw that on the beef side, he says. Beef protest should have stated months earlier and the way it ended. The handling of the Con Lucey letters was another reason he put down the motion of no confidence last January 12 months. Five people voted for it, 7 abstained and the rest voted backing the General Secretary.

8:48 PM

Pat Farrell – put down a motion of no confidence 12 months ago and things were not done and we were not given the full picture. There were people running for office now that did not support that motion. If something had been done then, maybe it wouldn’t have blown up in November. I’m very sorry that happened.

Richard Kennedy – I have to bail out on this, I was not on the Council since 2010 and the Council I knew – every decision we made was taken all the way through, no one blocked it. I don’t understand what happened. I was heart broken the way things turned out and I’m trying to do something about it.

Nigel – we do need a united origination. Past peformance is the best indication of future performance. If farmers aren’t united we’re going no where.

It was wrong what happened, but I’m only on National Council 2 years. If vote has been taken to the floor things might have been different. We have to move on and we have to be united. Half our problem is that Government and retailers and processors don’t take us seriously without a President, Deputy and General Secretary

8:42 PM

Comment from the floor…Annoys me that it went to the stage where the Gen Sec and President had to go. I don’t know who is to blame. But to let a few people wreck the organisation is not good enough. We need answers why we ended up in the situation we ended up in.

8:41 PM

Yes…we have a question from the floor…nope, it’s a comment. “I want a united organisation, I don’t want you undermining the President. It’s good that you deliver for the sector as commodity chairs. Wish you the best of luck, but we want an organisation”

8:37 PM

Nigel – whenever Teagasc tells us what we will or won’t make, it’s based on a top 10% of producer and I don’t think that’s fair. It also doesn’t incorporate a wage and that should be factored in.

Richard – Agrees that those costs shoudl be included. Profit monitor is a management tool for dairy farmers but appreciates that as a member of a discussion group  the PM is one of the most educational tools

Pat – its incomprehensible that Teagasc would not include all costs and that farmers would work for nothing. Profit monitors are not a true reflection of Irish farms

8:35 PM

No questions from the floor….really Mullingar? Nope, the Chairman has to kick it off…he’s asking about the profit monitor and labour not being included and that it’s not a true reflection of actual costs on farm. Will they fight to make sure alll costs are taken in…

8:28 PM

I’m making an ecumenical decision to focus on the questions and answers of the deputy candidates

8:19 PM

What some candidates are prepared to do to garner some positive coverage!!! 20160304_201352

8:16 PM

Co Chairman Kenneth Bray says the candidates can expect a range of questions tonight as the county has a wide range of farmers

8:13 PM

“You could grow trees in half the room” one smart @rse down the back remarks

8:11 PM

Crowd is so thin, Pat Farrell is drafted in to help….

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8:04 PM

So, at kickoff there’s less than 30 people in the room and some of them must be related to the candidates….

7:36 PM

So, Tuesday April 19 is going to be the count of those who vote in this election. Co. Chairmen have said that about 10% of the electorate are turning up for the debates….

6:57 PM

There’s 384 seats to be filled in Mullingar tonight…it will be the largest crowd yet…if the numbers turn up!

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6:54 PM Live: IFA election debate from Mullingar

We’re off to the Mullingar Park Hotel tonight for the final debate of the week for the IFA presidential candidates.

They’ve been on the road for three weeks now.