Joe Healy - 'IFA has delivered tangible results and reforms since I took office last April'
A comment piece in last week's Farming Independent by Margaret Donnelly questioned the progress being made by IFA president Joe Healy since his election last April. This week, Mr Healy defends his track record and outlines the new direction the IFA is taking.
'Budget 2017 is the most recent and direct example of IFA's influence at work. Each of the deliveries for farmers were issues IFA campaigned on since my election six months ago.
Chief among these was the groundbreaking €150m loan fund, which from January will give farmers access to working capital at 2.95pc, the lowest interest rate on offer to any sector. This can be used to replace costly overdrafts or merchant credit.
IFA also originated and secured a 'step out' year on income averaging to help farmers deal with volatility, available for 2016.
We lobbied hard to achieve the €107m increase in RDP funding for 2017 to provide further support to farm incomes. This will provide an additional €69m for GLAS, allowing 50,000 farmers to participate, enable the reopening of the BDGP scheme, and the commencement of the new €25m sheep scheme, worth €1,500 to a farmer with 150 ewes.
We campaigned successfully for the full reversal of cuts to Farm Assist and 500 more Rural Social Scheme places. There was also the €400 increase in the earned income tax credit, no increase in excise on diesel and other measures. All of these items are on the record in our Pre-Budget Campaign; the loan scheme and income averaging flexibility were unique to IFA.
Let's be clear. The Budget was very positive for Irish farmers, which is why it was surprising to me, and to farmers around the country, to read commentary in last week's Farming Independent that totally ignored IFA's role in delivering results for the agriculture sector.
IFA's focus is first and foremost representing farmers and achieving the best possible results for farm families.