'Faceless vulture funds hell-bent on destroying families,' says the IFA
The IFA is calling on farmers to "stand back" from forced sales of farmland, as it estimates that at least 150,000 acres are under threat.
Martin Stapleton, IFA farm business chairman, has said that at least 2,500-3,000 farmers may be in danger and are facing vulture funds selling their farms to settle debts.
"It is not true that farmers are not willing to engage, we find it's the vulture funds who are not engaging," he said.
He added that the IFA was opposed to any forced sale of farms by vulture funds where the farmer was willing to implement a credible solution.
The key people, he said, in this were potential buyers and "we are saying don't get involved with a vulture fund for the sake of quick buck... it is simply not right to force through a sale where there is an alternative on the table".
IFA president Joe Healy said: "The faceless funds which have no understanding of farming are hell-bent on destroying families while feeding on the carcass of the family farm.
"Farm families should be given the time to repay their debts over a longer term to keep the farm intact."
Loans that are barely in the category of being called "distressed" are being sold with other loans to make the overall package more attractive, Mr Stapleton claimed.
He also said it was "wrong" to have unregistered entities buying loans from reputable banks and that farmers were entitled to have the same security and options as other sectors.
"The Ulster Bank loan sales to Promontoria/Cerberus has created an enormous problem, both because of the number of cases and the increasing level of aggression with which they are dealing with our farmers," said Mr Stapleton.
"Link Asset Services, which is managing the loans on behalf of Promontoria, has simply refused point-blank to engage with us.
"In many cases, the level of default or arrears is quite small and our experience is that farm loans are very attractive to vulture funds, as the level of security is very strong.
"We think farm debt is being used as a carrot to help make loan packages more attractive."
He added: "We want that farmers whose loans are sold to vulture funds are given the time and opportunity to pay off these loans." The pillar banks were reluctant to sell, but the vulture funds had no such qualms, he said.