Viewpoint: IFA can't afford to exclude 'part-time' farmers from top table
Should only full-time farmers be eligible to represent IFA at the highest levels?
This question has suddenly become a hot topic, not least in the southwest where Limerick-man Donal O'Brien is referring the issue to the IFA rules and privileges committee for investigation.
He was "deeply hurt" at allegations that he is not a full-time farmer due to the directorship that he holds of a local construction company.
"I am a director of a construction company, Kildimo Development from which I do not receive a salary," he stated at a Limerick executive meeting last week.
At the same meeting a number of speakers called for a complete review of the IFA rule that prevents part-timers from holding a senior office in the organisation.
They have a point. The IFA depends heavily on its 80,000 members for both members' fees and clout at the negotiating table, but the reality is that the vast majority of these are part-time.
Exactly how many full-time farmers still exist in Ireland is a hard figure to pin down.
My best estimate is that there is no more than 17,000 full-time dairy farmers. The number of full-time sheep, beef and tillage men is probably less than 12,000. Factor in another 1,000 pig, poultry and veg producers, and you've got the vast majority of full-time farmers covered - in just 30,000 farms.