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Wednesday 24 April 2019

IFA calls on all farmers to pay levies after 'challenging' year for farm body

IFA President Joe Healy pictured addressing the 63rd Annual General Meeting of the Irish Farmers Association in Dublin.
IFA President Joe Healy pictured addressing the 63rd Annual General Meeting of the Irish Farmers Association in Dublin.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The president of the Irish Farmers’ Association has appealed to all farmers to support the lobby group by paying levies as they face into a tough year with CAP negotiations and Brexit.

Joe Healy warned that European leaders must step up and provide strong funding as crunch EU negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy budget get underway in Brussels.

“Now is the moment for this Government and our Taoiseach to show their mettle by standing up for the CAP," he said, adding the subsidies were responsible for injecting €1.8bn into the rural economy each year.

Finances closer to home turf were also under the spotlight as Mr Healy admitted it had been a challenging year for the IFA.

He pointed out a three-year plan was in place to close the current deficit and return to a balanced outcome over the next three years. Mr Healy said it would be a combination of rebuilding income and reducing costs.

“The IFA is like a farm business - we have a reserve there,” said Mr Healy. “You dip into that and replenish it in better years. We’ve done it in 2017, we’ll continue to do it in 2018.”

He added: “The plan is to ensure we get our levies and income streams back up and all the time as well looking at the outgoings in the organisation. But as of now there is absolutely no one looking at redundancies or anything of that nature.”

Director general of the IFA, Damian McDonald, who was appointed over a year ago after the organisation was engulfed in a pay controversy in 2015, said they were facing a hugely challenging year for farming and there was a structured plan in place.

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“Farmers do continue to support us and this is evident in our membership figures holding very strongly,” said Mr Healy, adding there was “little or no dip.

“I would ask all farmers to support the Association by paying their levies. It is fair and proportionate and represents a contribution of just €1.50 in every €1,000 of sales.”

The IFA moved in 2016 to suspend the levy collection by ABP factories that was worth hundreds of thousands of euro. It came after the Goodman-group informed the IFA of plans to introduce an ‘opt-in’ model for farmers who wished to continue to pay the levies.

“We haven’t met ABP yet in relation to this but the intention is to meet,” said Mr Healy, as they outlined how they were working to increase levies.

The Galway farmer said there were “huge challenges” facing farmers with negotiations getting underway on the vital CAP and Brexit looming.

The accounts for the year to March 2017 show the farm lobby group recorded an operational loss of €1.4m to the end of March 2017. There was a decline in farmer European Involvement Fund (EIF) levies collected that saw income for the association drop 16pc to €16.2m.

IFA Telecoms expenses stood at €5.9m, voluntary costs amounted to €1.5m, while professional fees came in at just under €1m.

Staff costs were €5.2m, with the president’s salary set out at €111,846. Executive management pay including pension contributions stood at €582,922, while the average remuneration for the top 15 staff after executive pay was €125,556, including pension payments.

However, both Mr Healy and director general Damian McDonald pointed out membership numbers have steadied. The accounts show affiliation fees stood at €5.7m, while levies amounted to €2.9m.

However, running costs saw the organisation record an operation loss of just under €2.1m. The IFA Telecom business made €645,000 which boosted the coffers to deliver an operational loss of €1.4m.

The value of its investments went up €2m which resulted in the association delivering a profit of €816,000 before tax.

The IFA is also continues to face two legal actions taken by former IFA general secretary Pat Smith, including one seeking orders requiring it to pay him €2m via payments of €1m now and a further €1m over the next 10 years.


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