Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Why I am giving the IFA another chance

Grain farmer Helen Harris on her farm in Co Kildare
Grain farmer Helen Harris on her farm in Co Kildare
Helen Harris

Helen Harris

We took a day off, like many farmers, to head to the ploughing championships down in Screggan, Tullamore. As we travelled around and chatted with other tillage farmers there was a sense of both relief that harvest was over and concern about the low prices for grain.

The knock on effect of these low yields and low prices will impact many of the stands at the ploughing. We were looking at all the shiny new machinery and tractors that were there and I think the low price of grain will see a drop in machinery sales.

I was also part of a Farming Independent debate about women's representation in farming organisations and in particular the IFA. I argued that I don't believe women are represented well in the IFA but I would also add that I believe the young farmers and tillage farmers are also not represented well within farm organisations.

When I mentioned the lack of women in the organisation I had many within the IFA tell me there are plenty of women in important positions.

IFA Top Brass

When I got home I went onto their website and had a look. In the 57 positions of committee chairmen, county chairmen and executive board members there is a total of one woman.

Do they really believe that that is gender balanced? Do they really think that reflects "plenty" of women in important roles?

I was also told that anyone can apply for all the different positions within the IFA.

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If an organisation doesn't see the benefit of having a balance of women to men, why on earth would you put yourself forward to a position?

We see time and time again reports that the top most profitable businesses all have one thing in common and that is a gender balance.

Why would any woman agree to being part of an organisation that doesn't want you?

So what is to be done about this?

I have seen all the work Joe Healy is doing and I also feel very strong that there is strength in numbers. As farmers the only way we can get the power back to the farmer is to stick together.

Change for Irish Farmers

I have decided that I am going to rejoin the IFA. I want Irish farmers to have a voice in Europe and I want the IFA to stand up to the big supermarket chains. There is no point in giving out if I don't give them my support and my membership money. I am going to give Joe Healy and the IFA a chance to change things for Irish farmers.

I hope that by bringing awareness to the lack of women in the IFA and the fact that I feel let down as a tillage farmer will mean that we can have a constructive conversation about how we can improve things for Irish farmers in the future.

We are the eternal optimists thinking that next year will always be better. I think that there is no use in grumbling from the side line. I want to see what they are actively doing to make a difference for farmers whether they be male or female, young or old, beef or tillage.

Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co. Kildare. Follow them on twitter P&H Harris @kildarefarmer.

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