Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Jer Bergin: 'IFA policy shouldn't be handed from top down'

Concern: IFA presidential candidate Jer Bergin is campaigning for the ban on below-cost selling to be reintroduced
Concern: IFA presidential candidate Jer Bergin is campaigning for the ban on below-cost selling to be reintroduced

Jer Bergin is from Ballacolla in Co Laois and runs a 55-cow suckler-to-beef herd, a hogget enterprise and farms 150ac of tillage in partnership with his brother. Bergin has been involved in the IFA for more than 20 years and is currently the Leinster vice-president.

He is also the organisation's spokesman on climate change, renewables and roads. Formerly, he served as vice-chairman of the influential livestock committee and has retained a seat on the national council for 13 of the past 15 years.

He cites his roles in opposing the last government's climate change legislation, negotiating compensation for malting barley growers and farmers affected by road CPOs, and his role in the IFA's beef blockade in 2000 as some of his biggest achievements during his time in the organisation.

Bergin was also awarded one of the first Nuffield scholarships in the late 1990s and has served on the boards of Agri Aware and Farmer Business Developments.

His campaign issues include:

* Bringing back a ban on below-cost selling. "The decision to scrap the grocery order was a product of a different era. Fresh produce sellers such as vegetable, poultry and pig men are the most exposed and their credit terms need to be improved," said Bergin.

* Power back to the members. "The IFA belongs to the members, and policy shouldn't be handed from the top down. We need to get away from that, because the association doesn't belong to the Farm Centre," he said.

* Improve the regulatory and inspection regime that "has ordinary decent families terrorised", according to Bergin.

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* Cash squeeze. "The surge in costs and shortage of money is driving people mad. We need different pricing models where back-to-back deals incorporate forward pricing and some reflection of the changing cost base in all sectors.

"Multi-nationals have to be able to offer some kind of a price guarantee in return for all the work the farmer is doing through quality assurance schemes to get product into high-end markets. Otherwise family farms simply won't cope," he said.

* Expanding leasing and young farmer incentives. "I think that leasing offers more for farm families than partnerships since it offers the potential of a second income on a farm for parents that could be tax free up to, say, €20,000."

* Government support. "The Government can't get a free ride on the back of the success of the ag sector without making it a central feature in their next election campaign. This should include long-term, low-cost credit, and further grain and livestock handling grants and chattle mortgages that would allow young farmers, in particular, to access credit on the strength of the asset value of their stock," said Bergin.

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