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Friday 9 December 2016

IFA still reeling from fall in levies

One year on from the IFA pay scandal, money collected from farmers has dropped by up to a fifth, reports Margaret Donnelly and Claire Mc Cormack

Margaret Donnelly and Claire Mc Cormack

Published 01/11/2016 | 10:00

Pat Smith, former IFA Geneal Secretary and Eddie Downey, former IFA President.
Pat Smith, former IFA Geneal Secretary and Eddie Downey, former IFA President.

Twelve months after the pay scandal, the IFA is still feeling an impact on its income.

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Marts around the country confirmed to the Farming Independent that the EIF (European Involvement Fund) levies they are collecting from farmers is back by up to 20pc in some cases.

All marts contacted by the Farming Independent said while the number of farmers looking to stop the collection of the voluntary levy has all but ceased, the overall amount of money collected is back.

Sean O'Sullivan, Cork Marts CEO, said the EIF levy total is back approximately 15pc on the same time last year.

Billy Loftus, mart manager at Mayo-Sligo Livestock Mart in Ballina, said the number of farmers looking to stop the levy had trickled to "no more than one a day", but he put the total amount collected as being 15pc down on 12 months ago, a figure also impacted by lower prices.

Sean Ryan of Sixmilebridge said that they are "no more than 20pc down" on last year.

Meltdown

"Last December, I thought there was going to be a meltdown altogether but we haven't had a request for levies to be stopped in months.

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"The lads that got them stopped haven't come back, but I'd say that could change if there's a big recruitment drive over the coming months when the IFA get their new man."

Carnew Mart manager David Quinn said that farmers who asked for the collection of the levy to stop have not relented. "Everyone who's out is out - only a handful came back. There's fewer taking themselves off during the first six months of this year compared to 2015."

However, he estimated that only 50-60pc are paying the levies now.

In Clare, Ennis Mart manager Martin McNamara said there hasn't been much of a change in farmers paying levies, but said there has been "a marginal 12pc-15pc fall off".

Castlerea Mart manager Brendan Egan said the amount of money being collected through levies is back 18pc year on year. He said there was an initial period which was worse right up to Christmas last year, but the number of farmers looking for the levy to be stopped has eased off.

He also said that the amount of money being collected is also back because turnover is down due to the price of cattle.

The IFA has not given members an update on its income since it did so in March when it said that levies collected through the marts and factories were estimated to have dropped by 12pc.

At the time the IFA also said that it had received 300 refund submissions from farmers.

The EIF levy is a voluntary levy that farmers can opt out it. It is collected through marts, meat factories and merchants across all sectors. While it is distributed to IFA, Macra and the ICMSA, the IFA gets the lion's share of the levy.

Levies account for approximately €4.7m of IFA's income in recent years, a figure that is sure to be revised when the IFA publishes its annual report.

The association will also be hit by the non-collection of the EIF levy through the Larry Goodman-owned ABP meat factories. ABP was instructed to stop collecting the levy by IFA, after it wrote to all its farmer suppliers offering them an automatic opt-out.

While the issue of levies was raised at all the presidential hustings this year, the association decided after a review to keep it as a key source of income.

Indo Farming