The role of Bord Bia, its Quality Assurance inspections, and whether farmers are getting value from Bord Bia were key topics for the IFA deputy president candidates at the last final debate in Offaly.

Nigel Renaghan said Bord Bia has 88 staff with the an average cost of €126,000 (including pensions) and questioned whether farmers are getting money from the organisation.

“I’d like to see Bord Bia severely curtailed…we’re all one-man shows here, working 24/7.”

He also criticised the level of inspections and paperwork involved in being part of schemes such as the Bord Bia Quality Assurance.

“Bord Bia is one inspection, then there’s Department of Agriculture, then co-ops, EPA, where does it stop? We have to take control and we as an organisation have to protect and fight for the farmers.”

Pat Farrell said when farmers such as Robin Talbot are thrown out of the scheme, it’s an indication of how difficult the inspections are.

“You can’t have people being thrown out, we have to claw back some of the ground. There are too many people living off our backs and Bord Bia is one of them.”

Farrell also said that Bord Bia could have a slimmed down organisation and he questioned where the farmers share of €11bn of exports was.

“Has it evaporated into thin air? €20bn of exports means nothing if farmers don’t get a return.”

However, Richard Kennedy said that as an exporting country Ireland has to have an accredited quality standard.

“It’s too severe but we have to have it. If we go selling milk powder and we are selling it against a country that has the standards and accreditation then we lose that sale (if we don’t have the standards).”

He suggests combining inspections and said that farmers should be given time to get the farm in order if necessary after an inspection.

“IFA has to stand four square about getting that type of time scale before it signs off on a new Bord Bia assurance scheme. But quality assurance is a trade issue and the standards we have in this country are being closely watched by others.

“Some Bord Bia inspectors think they are guards and are throwing their weight around,” he said.

A spokesperson for Bord Bia said the claim of €126,000 as an average wage on Bord Bia is clearly erroneous. “All Bord Bia grades are directly linked to the Civil Service pay grades. The lowest entry point begins at €22,727 and the highest point on the most senior scale is €105,906. Only the Chief Executive salary is at a level above this – at €149,175.”