The granting of suspended sentences to criminals who have used violence and intimidation has been questioned by the INHFA.
The hill farmer representative body also controversially claimed that the merits of providing free legal aid to repeat offenders should be examined.
In a hard-hitting assessment of rural crime, the INHFA claimed there was a growing problem of vulnerable people being intimidated into handing over cash.
“In addition to thefts there has been an increase in recent times in the targeting of vulnerable people for direct cash payments through ongoing intimidation,” said INHFA spokesman, Vincent Roddy.
“This type of crime is starting to feature more frequently especially in rural areas. But the real concern is that due to the nature of the crime, and the victims involved, it is substantially under-reported,” he explained.
“There is an urgent need to change the law in addressing this type of crime because those involved are generally not first-time offenders,” Mr Roddy said.
“At a starting point, bail should not be given if there is a previous conviction. We also need to look at the merits of providing free legal aid to repeat offenders, and the role of suspended sentences where violence and intimidation featured,” the INHFA spokesman maintained.
Mr Roddy said the ongoing targeting of rural areas by criminals, with the theft of farm equipment and most notably quad bikes and trailers, was taking a heavy financial toll on the farming community.
The INHFA said criminals now appeared to be working to a structured plan which involved areas being staked out and watched by gangs, before they instigating a series of robberies.
“While Gardai in association with community alert groups are having a positive impact in increasing awareness and preventing some of these thefts, there is a definite requirement for more resources to improve and expand these groups,” Mr Roddy said.