FARMERS are joining the exodus of Fianna Fail voters who are flocking to Fine Gael.
All of the party leaders will each set out their stall at Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) headquarters on Monday. But a new poll published yesterday suggests Fine Gael already has the farming vote wrapped up, with 60pc support.
Fianna Fail has seen its support among farmers collapse -- from 40pc last time out to just 19pc -- according to a new Red C poll. Fine Gael got 44pc support in a similar poll before the 2007 General Election.
Meanwhile, the Greens appear to have alienated farmers completely in their attempts to ram through a climate-change bill last month, with not a single first preference promised from the 500 farmers polled.
The Labour Party and Sinn Fein each secured 5pc support. Some 10pc plumped for Independent candidates.
Despite his party's unpopularity, Micheal Martin is neck-and-neck with Enda Kenny as farmers' choice for Taoiseach, while Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith is also given a reasonable rating for his performance in the poll carried out for the 'Farmers' Journal'.
The party leaders will address and answer questions from the IFA National Executive this Monday -- but they will all appear separately rather than in a joint debate.
Surprisingly, the poll puts Simon Coveney as the most popular choice for next minister for agriculture, with 23pc of farmers supporting him, while current Fine Gael spokesman Andrew Doyle only gets 8pc support, the same as Labour's Sean Sherlock.
The IFA welcomed the strong support from all the parties for retaining the €1.3bn paid to Irish farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
IFA President John Bryan also praised Fine Gael and Labour's commitments to introduce legislation to curb retailer power, saying this was vital to guarantee farmers a fair price.
While all the parties are promising support for CAP, Fine Gael says it will radically overhaul the structures governing the food sector.
They want to scale down the Department of Agriculture to refocus it solely on policy development and redeploy payment staff to a centralised service handling all state payments.
They also want a single food safety agency to take over food inspections and a single regulatory watchdog to replace the Competition Authority, National Consumer Agency and telecommunications and energy regulators.