Downey admits factory levy is 'a huge issue' for the IFA
The IFA leadership is coming under increasing pressure from farmer members to review the practice of beef slaughter plants collecting levies for the organisation.
Speaking at a meeting of Limerick IFA's county executive last week association president Eddie Downey admitted that the factory levy had become a contentious issue nationally.
"It is a huge issue on the ground. At every meeting people want to raise it, because they believe that it is a problem," Mr Downey said.
However, the IFA leader insisted that collection of the levy, which is estimated to be worth close to €3m to the organisation each year, did not impact on the farm body's relationship with the factories.
"The levy has no influence on IFA policy, but the belief is out there among farmers that it is stopping us doing what we could do for beef farmers and we have to seriously look at finding an alternative," Mr Downey said.
The European Improvement Fund (EIF) is collected on animals supplied by farmers to the beef plants at €2/hd approximately on behalf of the IFA. On a national throughput of 1.5-1.6m/hd it accounts for up to €3m a year.
Mr Downey came under severe pressure at the Limerick meeting from members who were critical of what they claimed was the association's failure to challenge the processors on the current beef crisis.
Former IFA national beef committee member Donal O'Brien insisted the association should get rid of the factory levy on cattle going through the factories.
"Getting the factories to collect the levy is a major problem. With the factories collecting the levy for the IFA it is very hard for the association to deal with the factories on the price they pay for cattle," Mr O'Brien maintained.
However, Mr Downey defended the independence of the IFA and insisted he had never seen a situation the levy was a factor in the IFA's dealing s with the factories.
However, Eddie Scanlan, former Limerick county chairman, said the factory levy was an ongoing problem.
"Whether we like it or not we are going to have to get out of the collection of the levy at the factories, because it is a problem." Mr Scanlan told the meeting.
Mr Downey said that the view of members in Limerick and other counties on the levy was being taken very seriously by the association and he appealed for any suggestions which members may have as an alternative to the levy.
Meanwhile, it is understood the ICMSA also receives a small amount from the beef levy. Macra na Feirme benefits from the levy on dairying, but receives no income from the levy on beef.