Downey must pick right battles in fight to keep the IFA relevant
Eddie Downey, aged 52, from Slane, Co Meath will today become the 14th president of the Irish Farmers Association.
He follows in some illustrious footsteps, after Juan Green (1955) Rickard Deasy (1962), TJ Maher (1967), Paddy Lane (1976), Donal Cashman (1980), Joe Rea (1984), Tom Clinton (1988), Alan Gillis (1990), John Donnelly (1994), Tom Parlon (1998), John Dillon (2002), Padraig Walshe (2006) and John Bryan (2010).
Every new president faces challenges but Eddie Downey is arriving at a time of great uncertainty about the level of continuing EU support and who will get it, what will happen in dairying when milk quotas go and whether farmers can ever be assured of receiving a fair price for the food they produce.
But Downey also faces another challenge -- growing dissatisfaction with the association from a section of its own farmer members.
While the IFA, in its political negotiations, routinely points out that it has 88,000 members, a cursory analysis of the recent presidential election shows that just 31,730 (36pc) of these voted.
Irish farming, farmers themselves and their main representative organisation are all going through an identity crisis at the moment, it would appear.
So who does the IFA represent in 2014? Can it legitimately claim to represents all sectors? What will farming in Ireland look like a generation from now?
Perhaps the way to answer this is the Irish way, with another question. Do Irish farmers as a group still have common goals and, if so, what are they?