Sunday 21 December 2014

IFA facing a series of challenges to its credibility

Published 27/08/2014 | 02:30

IFA beef farmer protest
IFA beef farmers protest outside a supermarket over prices

The first is the contention from Meat Industry Ireland (MII) that the claims by farm leaders of a 25pc drop in price are 'inaccurate'.

It is vitally important the farmers stick to the facts when they are trying to win the hearts and minds of the public and industry during challenging times like this.

There is no need for farm leaders to embellish any figures, since a 15pc drop in a sector with wafer-thin margins represents a serious blow to any hope of profitability for the vast majority of beef farmers.

The alternative where the public ceases to buy into the IFA's claims would be a terrible development for an organisation that has worked hard on building a professional and trust-worthy presence.

The challenge being posed by 'grassroots' members will be a more difficult one for the IFA leadership to contend with.

The anger that erupted at the beef meeting in Navan last week stems from a belief among many farmers that their organisation is being fatally compromised by the fact that it relies on the meat processors to collect millions of euro in levies from their members.

While the IFA hasalways refused to furnish the details of just how reliant it is on the levy-collection arrangement with the factories, we do know that they are entitled to 0.15pc of the carcass value of the vast majority of the 1.5 million cattle that are slaughtered here annually.

Does this compromise its ability to demand more from the processors for their members' cattle? Many would argue that this has to be case, since there is a large amount of goodwill required between the two organisations to enable this levy collection process to proceed smoothly.

Indeed, the amount of emphasis that IFA leadership places on the role of the Minister for Agriculture and the retailers in securing better beef prices for farmers fuels the theory that the farm lobby group is wary of pointing the finger of blame directly at the factories.

Granted, the Minister for Agriculture should be an important ally for farmers, and the big retailers are crucial link the chain. But surely it is the meat processor that is the ultimate arbitrator of the price is paid to the farmer?

The next IFA beef meeting in Castlerea is likely to be another lively affair, but the organisation needs to get to grips with the key issues within its own structure before it will be able to convince all its members that it has no conflicts of interest when it's negotiating on their behalf.

Indo Farming

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