On the IFA presidential hustings

AgriLand caught up with the two Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Presidential candidates earlier today, as they made their way to Donegal for the last farmer debate…………  

Agriculture Minister must get his priorities right – Bergin

IFA Presidential candidate Jer Bergin has told AgriLand that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney must re-focus his priorities when it comes to delivering on the priorities laid down within the Harvest 2020 Report.

“The minister keeps telling us that the agri-food sector will grow tremendously over the next few years,” he added.

“But this won’t happen until farmers receive the sustainable prices they need to secure their futures. No farmer in his right mind will look at expansion until the key objective of securing the realistic prices for the food they produce becomes a reality. Once these matter s have been addressed the growth targets laid out for the agri-food industry as a whole will become achievable.”

Bergin went on to point out that Minister Coveney still had some important Common Agricultural Policy Reform work to complete in Brussels, particularly where the dairy sector is concerned.

“The Minister must deliver on the Irish dairy sector’s need to access meaningful support measures, including Intervention and Private Storage Aids, at those times when international markets crash.

“But that’s only part of the problem,” he further explained.

“Processers must be able to avail of these support measures precisely at those times when they are required. In the past there has been much too long a delay between the need for support being identified and the time taken by the bureaucrats in Brussels to green light the required measures.”

Turning to today’s announcement regarding the establishment of a Farmers’ Charter Review Group by  Minister Coveney, Bergin said:

“This is all four years too late. It is a key pillar of my policy programme that the charter must be totally overhauled. Irish farmers are being made to suffer because of the draconian measures contained within the current charter. Department of Agriculture inspectors have far too many powers, which they seem only too happy to use in ways that are making life hell for thousands of local farmers. Producers have rights, which must be upheld within all future charter agreements.

“I am asking for the strongest possible mandate from IFA members to allow me get this work done as quickly as possible.”

The Presidential candidate concluded: “My campaign is going well. I am getting a strong message of support from farmers throughout the country. There has been a tremendous turnout for the various rallies that have been held to date. I remain totally committed to securing the best possible future for every family farm business in Ireland.”

Sorting out the new Farmers’ Charter will be a key priority – Downey

IFA Presidential candidate Eddie Downey has told AgriLand that today’s announcement by Agriculture Minister Coveney, regarding the establishment of a Farmers Charter Review Group, comes as a direct result of the work he has undertaken in his role as a deputy president of the farming organisation.

“The minister gave me a personal commitment that he would establish the review group, once the main thrust of the Common Agricultural Policy Reform negotiations had been completed in Brussels,” he added.

“And I warmly welcome today’s developments. But this is only the start of a process, which must lead to the total reform of the existing charter. The current arrangements are not working. Department of Agriculture inspectors have too many powers, which they exercise in an indiscriminate nature.

“But that’s only part of the issue. What’s required is a complete mindset change on the part of everyone working within the department, when it comes to interfacing with farmers. For example, I want to see inspectors taking on much more of an advisory role when it comes to farm inspections, rather than simply acting as policemen on the hunt for law breakers.

“Fundamentally, a farm visit should be viewed by both the host and the inspector as an opportunity to identify any problems that exist and then to develop a suitable action plan that will allow the relevant issues to be resolved.  The heavy handed approach to inspections and the vast range of other related issues, currently allowed under the current charter, must be fundamentally reviewed so as to give farmers more confidence in the Department of Agriculture and the processes it undertakes.”

Turning to the issue of farm profitability, Downey pointed out that farmers must receive sustainable prices for their produce.

“I will also be addressing the issue of input costs,” he stressed.

“Irish farmers continue to pay exorbitant prices for all of the primary commodities they utilise within their businesses, fertiliser and fuel being two of the most obvious examples.

“Steps must be taken at an industry level to allow farmers access these inputs at realistic levels, thereby helping to sustain their businesses for the long term.

He concluded: “I have a strong track record in putting extra money in Irish farmers’ pockets. An excellent example of this is the amendment to the Vat refund system, which saw an €130m per annum going back to primary producers. All farmers have to do is look at the receipts they get form their milk processers and the marts of for evidenced of this. I was instrumental in bringing all of this about.”

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Pictured Jer Bergin and Eddie Downey at the Macra Young Farmer of the Year hustings debate earlier this year