Protests, levies and feedlots: where the IFA presidential candidates stand

Angus Woods on the farm. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Angus Woods on the farm. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Tim Cullinan
John Coughlan
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Declan O’Brien canvasses the contenders’ views on three burning issues facing the beef sector

Do you support the factory protests that were undertaken by dry stock farmers?

Angus Woods

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I share the frustration of all livestock farmers at dysfunctional markets and the struggle to make a decent income.

I am also concerned that many farmers need to move stock - this is the basis for much of our trade.

We need to be working together to prepare for some serious challenges coming down the line, including Brexit and possible tariffs on beef exports from Ireland for the first time since the economic war of the 1930s.

Tim Cullinan

I fully appreciate why farmers are at the factory gates. This crisis has been in the making for over a year and we are now in a situation where cattle prices are on the floor and farmers are on their knees.

This situation should never have come about, but this is what happens when farmers become frustrated with issues not being addressed.

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The beef barons have exploited their control of cattle prices, exploited farmers and have become arrogant. While their wealth has grown, beef farmers have become poorer and are working for nothing.

John Coughlan

I fully support farmers' right to protest and I fully understand why farmers are protesting. I slaughter over 100 cattle and I know the losses.

This is an industry without transparency: everyone else is getting a living, except farmers. But the issue today has been brewing for a long time.

The factories and retailers control of the price of beef and the EU importation of cheap, substandard beef from South America means farmers are not getting the price they need to make a living.

Price and the workings of the European market are the real issues here. They must be resolved together.

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John Coughlan

Do you think IFA should continue the collection of levies for the association by the beef and lamb factories?

Angus Woods

Effective representation costs money. IFA needs an income to fund the work it does. This should be collected fairly and efficiently from our members.

Levy deductions at factories are one way of doing this and I am happy to pay a levy on all my sales.

Tim Cullinan

Beef farmers need a strong IFA but it has to be funded. However, I believe it's about achieving results, and farmers will pay if they can see the IFA delivering for them.

The IFA European Involvement Fund Levy works in other commodities and there is no problem.

It's the farmers' choice to pay the IFA levy, and while it's deducted at the point of sale, that certainly would not compromise any dealings I would have with factories in my fight for farmers as IFA president.

John Coughlan

IFA and other farm organisations are financed by levies paid by their farmer members. Use of this levy money has nothing to do with the factories.

It is a farmer's decision how they finance the organisation. This was the clear message when all counties openly discussed the financing of IFA. All counties took this decision because the sliding scale is the fairest model, and I support the democratic IFA decision.

I believe this is the right decision because those who benefit most from the work of the association, contribute more to it.

All sectors pay levies on their produce to finance IFA. This makes us strong because we all work together.

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Tim Cullinan

Should beef processors be prohibited from owning or controlling feedlots for finishing cattle?

Angus Woods

We need to have as many buyers as possible around the mart ring.

To achieve this we need to be supporting family farms and the European model of farming along with live exports.

Tim Cullinan

There is no doubt some processors use their own feedlots in the spring to control cattle prices. Coupled with the huge Single Farm Payments they receive, this gives them an unfair advantage over independent winter feeders who have suffered huge losses in recent years.

John Coughlan

The use of a feedlot is a farmer's choice to commit to a contract with that factory.

You can't prohibit a factory from controlling a feedlot, but there should be transparency in what factories are paying, in the numbers they kill and more importantly, when they kill them. This calendar should be visible and published by the Department of Agriculture on a weekly basis.

Farmer-operated feedlots are an important part of the weanling and store cattle trade. I believe farmers need forward-priced contracts for beef. I am in favour of factories coming forward with contracts for farmer finishers rather than factory-owned feedlots.

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