Farm incomes and reform of the IFA were the main topics at the first IFA Election debate which took place last night (Monday) at Racket Hall in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

In excess of 300 people were in attendance at the meeting.

The debates around the country are an opportunity for IFA members to hear presentations from the candidates and to participate in an open forum discussion on farming issues.

Last night’s meeting garnered the interest of IFA members from around the country, with Laois, Offaly and Tipperary showing the highest numbers, as well as members from Galway.

Farm incomes

The issue of falling farm incomes was the dominant problem addressed last night by all the candidates. Presidential candidate Flor McCarthy said that family farm incomes are on the floor.

“We have to negotiate if we don’t get a rise. We are a lobby group and we have to keep the pressure on.”

Joe Healy said that the IFA needs to be sure that farmers are getting whatever the market is returning.

The price differential is not sustainable and we can put a lot more pressure on our Minister.

Laois candidate Henry Burns said that the IFA has to find solutions to the issue and anecdotally told of how he slept in a caravan outside of the Department of Agriculture for two weeks in protest to get money for farmers from the former Minister Brendan Smith.

Reform of IFA

Reform of IFA was the other key topic debated at last night’s event where Deputy candidate Richard Kennedy said that the IFA needs to do a better job for all its sectors.

“All sectors – their opinions should be taken on board and they should be consulted. It’s about IFA acknowledging the views of all its members.”

Nigel Renaghan said that splinter groups are made up of farmers who are frustrated with the IFA. Pat Farrell said that if the IFA delivers for splinter groups that they will come back to the organisation and appealed for them to return to the IFA.

Presidential candidate Henry Burns said that it has to get back to a situation where people say ‘it’s my IFA’.

“We’ve a lot of different types of farming and when it comes to filling the bus we’re able to do it – we helped one another out.”

Joe Healy said that credibility needs to be restored to the organisation and that the smaller sectors need to feel listened to.

Flor McCarthy said while there’s a lot of difference in the commodity sectors, he is confident that the IFA will drive forward.

The next meeting is tonight (February 9) in Dunmanway, Co. Cork and tomorrow’s is also in Co. Cork, in Ballincollig.