Business Farming

Friday 19 September 2014

IFA splinter group seeks break from factory levies

Michael Staines and 
Darragh McCullough

Published 27/08/2014 | 02:30

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Some of the 250 farmers who witnessed heated scenes at the meeting in Navan

A splinter group is emerging within the IFA as anger over the organisation's handling of the ongoing crisis in beef prices spilled over in a heated meeting in Navan, Co Meath last week.

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Farmers calling themselves 'Grassroots' repeatedly attacked IFA leadership, including its president Eddie Downey, over its role as beef prices continue to weaken.

Afterwards, Mr Downey admitted that frustration amongst his organisation's members over prices and specifications had reached "boiling point."

However, the Meath-based president claimed the real culprits for the current 17pc slump in beef prices were the retailers and meat processors.

Problems

Mr Downey also demanded that the Minister for Agriculture get more involved in solving the problem by insisting that processors respect the pricing agreement within the Quality Payment System that has been in place since 2009.

He said that price cuts based on specifications like age, weight and breed were never a part of the agreement and should be removed immediately.

Grassroots member, Hugh Doyle questioned the wisdom behind a levy that the IFA receives from meat processors on every animal slaughtered.

"We are concerned they are slightly contaminated," he said. "You can't ask the organisation that you are trying to take on to organise your income for you as well."

The IFA relies on meat processors to deduct a levy of 0.15pc from the sale value of each animal that a farmer gets killed. This is then passed on the group.

Mr Doyle said that farmers need to cut out meat processors altogether in order to get a fair price.

"Our industry is imploding at the moment and we have to decide whether we are going to take things into our own hands or let the processors dictate what happens to us," he said.

"I'm talking about a co-op situation where the farmers will set up a processing factory and market their own beef."

However, Eddie Downey rejected the splinter group's assertions, claiming that the IFA is "totally focused on challenging factories, retailers and the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney over the unjustified cattle price cuts."

"The anger and frustration of farmers over the way their incomes have been decimated is very real and farmers feel betrayed by the unacceptable behaviour of retailers and processors this year," added Mr Downey.

He said there is overwhelming support for the IFA's cattle price campaign and a strong demand for Minister Coveney to ensure that the Quality Payments system is restored.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the time has come for decisive action and called on farmers to withdraw from the Bord Bia 'Quality Assured' scheme.

"We need to send a clear, unequivocal message to processors and retailers that farmers will not be bullied," said Mr Kent.

"It is clear that processors are using threats like this as a precursor to a further cut in beef prices, and there is nothing in the Quality Assured Scheme to protect farmers from this."

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