Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

IFA takes a massive hit on income

Revenue down €1.4m and association 'running at a loss' claim sources

IFA members pictured at a protest last February in Bunclody, Co Wexford outside Slaney Meats
IFA members pictured at a protest last February in Bunclody, Co Wexford outside Slaney Meats
Eddie Davitt
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The IFA has refused to comment on claims that the organisation's income has fallen by €1.4m over the last year due to a collapse in membership and levy payments.

The Farming Independent has learned that delegates at a recent Cork county executive meeting were informed that the association is "running at a loss".

Delegates were told that this year's projected earnings for the organisation stand at €10m, with reserves of €16m.

The IFA declined to confirm or deny these claims. An IFA spokesperson said: "We have no comment to make."

However, IFA members around the country have confirmed that the IFA's income from mart, factory and dairy processor levies has fallen steeply since the association was rocked by a salaries controversy in November 2015.

Last August, Ireland's largest beef processor - the Larry Goodman-owned ABP - announced plans to stop the blanket collecting of levies from farmers by its meat factories.

'Huge discontent'

It is estimated that the levy collection across all income sectors was worth €4.7m to IFA every year - the association describes the levies as "voluntary".

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And other sources say more than 500 farmers have withdrawn membership in counties Mayo and Galway alone.

It is also understood that an estimated 1,000 former IFA members have joined or expressed interest in joining the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

Eddie Davitt, IFA rural development chairman in Sligo and a member of the association for 25 years who has served on several committees - including livestock, sheep and hill - said there is "huge discontent" among the grassroots.

"I'm not going to praise and say IFA is a wonderful organisation, it was one time, but it led itself into the difficulty that it has now.

"A lot of people across the west in Ballina, Ballinrobe, into Leitrim, Drumshanbo and Ballymote, have withdrawn their membership and levies especially in marts and factories," he maintained.

"I'm totally disgusted with some of the things they've done in the past. Transparency is the biggest issue within the organisation," he said.

"The figures (on IFA income) don't surprise me at all, I'd actually be expecting them to be higher.

"Top quality people left through frustration and not being listened to. I went close enough to it myself and I won't deny that," he said.

Mr Davitt said that up to 1,300 farmers attended INHFA meetings in Newport, Donegal and Maam Cross in recent weeks.

The sheep farmer from Tubbercurry said IFA officers from Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon aired deep frustrations at a regional meeting this month. The meeting was attended by newly appointed IFA CEO Damian McDonald and IFA president Joe Healy, as well as the Connacht regional chairman, Padraic Joyce.

“It was fairly heated: we ran out of time to discuss the financial situation because there were so many other issues and major concerns about the Knowledge Transfer, and the Beef Data Genomics scheme. It’s a farce, and it’s no good reopening it without modifying it,” Mr Davitt insisted.

“There are serious issues coming down the road with the ANC and that is going to be the rock they [IFA] are going to perish on,” he warned.

“They need to grab the bull by the horns and tackle the Minister because these schemes are annoying people; it’s unacceptable,” he said. David Thompson, former IFA Limerick county chairman, was also aware of the funding claims and said he is “amazed” the financial situation isn’t worse.

“If they [IFA] represent farmers correctly, properly, straight and transparently, the membership will remain. But, if they continue mucking around with all the money, it won’t change,” he said

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