Milk and meat heavy hitters rally around IFA
Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30
Meat processors, co-ops and marts have all indicated that they have no plans to follow the precedent set by the country's largest beef processor.
It now appears unlikely that ABP's decision to withdraw from collecting farm organisation levies will develop into a wider industry issue.
The main milk processors contacted by the Farming Independent have all either declined to comment or stated that they have no plans to change the manner in which they collect the EIF.
A spokesman for Kerry Group said the levy was a matter for individual suppliers. He admitted some suppliers had "made their position known to us" in the aftermath of the IFA salaries scandal, but said there had been "no concerted effort" to change the existing collection arrangements.
A spokesman for Lakeland Dairies said the issue was "not under any form of consideration", while Glanbia said they had "no plans to change".
An official at Arrabawn said the issue had not been discussed, although he admitted that some suppliers had opted out of the levy last spring. Dairygold declined to comment.
Meat factories made similar statements.
A spokeswoman for Dawn Meats said the company has "no plans to change existing levy collection arrangements unless asked to do so by farmers or the farm organisations".
A Kepak spokesman said "the company has no comment to make on the matter".
While Slaney Meats refused to comment it's believed that no changes have been made to their levy collection system.
The ICOS national marts committee said it has not discussed ABP's recent decision on the levy collection, "as yet".
A spokesman said: "it is a decision of a private company, not an ICOS member and as such does not concern ICOS. "Mart societies decisions on levy collection is an individual mart board decision," he said.
Tullamore, Ennis and Kilkenny marts have all confirmed that they will continue to collect the levy. However, Kilkenny mart said the issue will be discussed at a board meeting today.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed ruled out any government intervention in the ABP and IFA row. "We need a strong farming lobby group in Ireland. The IFA is that. They have their own issues to deal with in terms of funding," he said.
He also insisted that there would be no departmental mediation in the dispute.
The EIF levy is a vital income source for the IFA.
In 2015 the levy generated €5.3 million in income for the farm organisations, with €4.7 million going to the IFA. Of this total, around €1.5 million was collected from the beef factories.
It is estimated that ABP collects around €400,000 each year in levies.
IFA president Joe Healy (pictured) has reiterated his assertion that ABP's move on farmer levies was retaliation for IFA raising serious competition issues with the EU Commission over the ABP/Slaney deal.
Although this assertion was dismissed as "disingenuous" by ABP, Mr Healy again claimed it was an attempt to "undermine the association" and challenge its independence "by attacking our revenue stream".
Mr Healy said he had been contacted by many farmers who want to support the stance taken by the organisation.
He reminded members that ABP is no longer authorised to collect the EIF levy on behalf of IFA and said farmers who receive letters from ABP should not return them.
He said other businesses were working normally with IFA on the EIF.
"There's been contact with many of our officers around the country from collectors, confirming it was business as usual and they were happy to continue the current arrangement."
In July, the IFA submitted a report on the ABP/Slaney deal to DG Competition in Brussels.
It concluded that the deal was "likely to weaken competition" in the purchase of cattle in a market "already characterised by weak competition".
ICSA president Patrick Kent has reiterated his call for a review of all levies.
"Twenty years ago farmers could say they were getting fair price for their cattle but that has been stripped away by ever squeezing margins and at the same time you have all these levies.
"A lot of farmers are no longer happy to pay because they question what the levy is being used for," he said.