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Concern is felt across all farming sectors on levies

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James O'Dea (4) with his grandfather Tom on the first day of the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, near Stradbally, Co Laois.

James O'Dea (4) with his grandfather Tom on the first day of the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, near Stradbally, Co Laois.

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James O'Dea (4) with his grandfather Tom on the first day of the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, near Stradbally, Co Laois.

THERE is a clear view among farmers across all sectors that the farming organisations need to examine their levy collection arrangements with meat processors and dairies.

Unease about the current levy collection system is consistently strong regardless of farm enterprise - 64pc of drystock farmers and 67pc of dairy farmers indicated they believe the system compromises the farm organisations.

In addition, the collection of levies by business interests is clearly an issue for cereals growers - 66pc of those surveyed believe the practice compromiss the independence of farmer bodies.

However, despite farmer reservations about processors collecting levies, there is also a realisation that farm organisations need the funds.

When asked if farm organisations should be funded by levies collected by meat and dairy processors, 49pc answered 'no', while 38.9pc answered 'yes', with 12.1pc 'don't knows'.

Across the enterprises there was some variation in views. Fifty-two percent of dairy farmers said processors should not be involved in collecting levies, 35pc believed they should be, while 13pc 'didn't know'.

Of the drystock farmers, 49.5pc did not want processors involved in the collection of levies, but 39.5pc said they should, while there were 11pc 'don't knows'.

In the tillage sector, 43pc were opposed to businesses being involved in collecting levies, while 37pc said they should, with 20pc in the 'don't know' camp.

Full-time farmers were most opposed to processors collecting levies. Fifty-four percent of full-time farmers said processors should not be involved in collecting levies, 37pc said they should, with 9pc of 'don't knows'.

In contrast, 47pc of part-time farmers were opposed to processors collecting farmer levies, with 38pc agreeing with the practice and 15pc 'don't knows'.

Both IFA and ICMSA have defended the practice of processors collecting levies.

The IFA said the levies collected at co-ops, factories, marts and merchants helps fund a presence in Brussels and ensure that IFA is "one of the most professional and strongest farm organisations in Europe." The European Involvement Fund (EIF) levy is understood to deliver €4-4.5m to the IFA each year or 35pc of its income.

ICMSA president John Comer said that it was almost 100pc funded by members and the members themselves chose different payment options ranging from levies on their output, direct debit, bankers' orders and cash payment.

"In relation to levies, ICMSA funding is overwhelming derived from a levy agreed with the individual milk supplier and then deducted from the individuals member's milk revenues. The co-op or processor is merely acting on the instructions of the farmer and ICMSA feels in no way whatsoever indebted to the co-op or processor because it's not their money they're transferring," said Mr Comer.

Indo Farming