Bord Bia and the power of the retailers were two key points that were raised at last night’s IFA debate in Edmonstown, Co. Louth.

Both points reflected the return, or lack of, that farmers are receiving for their produce. Henry Burns said it will take legislation to stop the retailers from selling below cost produce to improve farmers lot.

Joe Healy said EU support is needed to prevent below-cost selling. He pointed to Aldi and Lidl – Germany supermarkets – that have legislation banning below cost in their home country but that it’s not in Ireland.

Flor McCarthy said supermarket guidelines will not be enough to ensure fairness for farmers on margins and he also said middlemen have to be removed from the food chain.

All three said heightened regulation from Bord Bia is unacceptable, while the floor was very vocal about the lack of return from produce that is of very high quality and the difficulty with Bord Bia schemes.

IFA Transparency

“Once upon a time there was an organisation that represented farmers and then a little rot set in and the grass roots huffed and puffed…and I’m not saying the three men here the three little pigs, but will you plaster over the rot or will you see where it is?”

On this, the three candidates were asked if they would go back further than 2009 in the organisation’s business to see when and where the ‘rot’ set in. All three promised to do so.

All three said they were not afraid of the skeletons in the closet and agreed that full transparency was needed to move forward.

Communication of the message was also an issue raised, especially around protests. Henry Burns said farmer unity is necessary when it comes to protests. The vegetable growers often cannot protest as there are so few of them they are easily identifiable and need the support of other farmers to protest for them.

Minister Coveney was heavily criticised from both the floor and the presidential candidates. Both farmers at the meeting and those running for the role of IFA President said not enough pressure had been put on the Minister in recent years.

The deputy candidates were well grilled from the floor, with repeat questions looking for their strategies to get a better price for farmers.