Candidates neck and neck in race for IFA presidency
The IFA presidential race is wide open, with the two contestants Jer Bergin and Eddie Downey running neck and neck.
A survey of just over 1,000 farmers at last week's National Ploughing Championships found that Co Laois candidate Bergin held a slight lead over his opponent.
However, almost half of those polled indicated that they had yet to make up their minds.
Of the 1,011 farmers who answered the survey, 28pc opted for Bergin as the next IFA president, while 26pc went for Downey. But a massive 46pc said they were still undecided.
The other stand-out findings from the survey were:
61pc of farmers favoured a coupled payment for suckler cows in the new CAP reforms;
89pc of farmers felt they had enough fodder for the upcoming winter;
26pc were concerned at their level of merchant or co-op debt;
51pc of milk suppliers predicted they would be over quota by the end of March;
16pc of farmers had been the victims of crime over the last 12 months.
The survey confirms that the result of IFA presidential race hangs in the balance as the campaign gets into top gear and the 10- week national canvas begins inearnest.
The survey showed that 64pc of Connacht farmers had yet to decide which way to vote, the figure for Munster was 54pc, 44pc in Ulster and 34pc in Leinster.
Bergin appeared to be well ahead in Leinster, taking 44pc of the poll compared to 22pc for Downey. However, the fact that the Ploughing Championships was held in his backyard may have had an influence.
Meath native Downey was clearly ahead in the north of the country, taking Ulster by 50pc to Bergin's 6pc. Munster also appeared to be opting for Downey, who took the southern province by 28pc to 19pc.
The survey found that Downey was also ahead in Connacht by 24pc to 12pc.
In terms of farm enterprises, Bergin held the upper hand among suckler farmers, but Downey was more popular with cereal growers.
The suckler vote went 32pc to Bergin, 22pc to Downey and 46pc undecided. Tillage went 38pc to Downey, 28pc to Bergin and 34pc undecided. Beef went 30pc to Downey, 25pc to Bergin and 55pc undecided.
Support from dairy and sheep farmers was shared fairly equally. The dairy poll went 28pc for Downey, 26pc for Bergin, with 46pc undecided. Twenty-three percent of sheep farmers opted for Downey, 22pc for Bergin, with 55pc undecided.
Farm size appeared to have little influence on voting intentions. Downey was the more popular with those farming under 50ac and those farming over 200ac.
However, Bergin carried more support in the 50-100ac bracket, as well as those farming between 100ac and 150ac, and farmers in the 150-200ac size range.
Broken down by age, Downey has greater backing from younger farmers. He was the more popular candidate with both the 18-34 and 35-44 age groups. In the latter group the Meath candidate received 32pc support compared to 23pc for Bergin.
However, Bergin was the more popular candidate with middle aged and older farmers.