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Buttevant's John stakes his claim for top IFA job

'I will take on the biggest and roughest organisations to protect and help farmers'

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John Coughlan, Ballyellis, Buttevant, with his wife Ann at the launch of his campaign for president of the IFA. Photo: Sean Jefferies Photography

John Coughlan, Ballyellis, Buttevant, with his wife Ann at the launch of his campaign for president of the IFA. Photo: Sean Jefferies Photography

John Coughlan, Ballyellis, Buttevant, with his wife Ann at the launch of his campaign for president of the IFA. Photo: Sean Jefferies Photography

"I am passionate about farming and passionate about the need for farm incomes to take centre stage immediately - centre stage with Government, centre stage with industry and, indeed, centre stage with the IFA."

Those were the heartfelt words of John Coughlan, who last Saturday officially launched his campaign to become the next president of the IFA at his Buttevant farm in front of a crowd of more than 400 supporters.

Speaking at the event Mr Coughlan, the current regional IFA chairman for Munster, identified what he believed were the key priorities for the association, vowing to "take on the biggest and roughest organisations to protect and help farmers".

These priorities included he protection of farm incomes, CAP reform, the funding of climate change measures and farm family welfare.

"Farmers are the foundation of the food industry, but, without viable farm families, this industry is broken. Farm income is the most important issue for the IFA at all times," said Mr Coughlan. 

He said the income crisis crossed all commodities, with beef, potatoes and vegetables "under serious threat". 

"However, livestock enterprises have come under an unprecedented attack. No beef enterprise can return a viable income now. Grain and sheep sectors are only barely surviving, and many dairy farms are only managing because of vastly increased scale. This is not a sustainable model for Irish farming," said Mr Coughlan. 

In a rousing speech that pulled no punches, Mr Coughlan said that, if elected  IFA president, he would split the Competition Authority into two distinct bodies, work towards achieving "financial respect and the farmer's right to get a margin for their work", pro-actively seek transparency in all sectors of the industry and challenge Europe's cheap food policy.

"As farmers we are expected to take what's left and to produce below the costs of production. Farm families are expected to survive on an average farm income of less €23,000. This can't be allowed to continue. My mission will be to deliver a viable income for families, one that allows the next generation to farm with confidence,"he said. 

"I will take on the biggest and roughest organisations to protect and help farmers. No Government department, EU institution or multinational will get an easy ride from IFA and I will challenge any regulation that is not equivalent to ours in the European market. I want a level playing field for farmers. I will deliver a level playing field for farmers," he vowed. 

Former IFA presidents Donie Cashman and John Bryan, and Buttevant local and CEO of Cork Marts, Sean O'Sullivan were on hand on the night to endorse Mr Coughlan's candidacy. 

Mr O'Sullivan said that John Coughlan "had IFA in his DNA", pointing out it had been 40-years since Cork last had a candidate for the top job in the association and "the time is right to change that". 

Mr Cashman said he was "proud of the fact" that his title as the only Cork IFA president would soon be taken away from him. 

"We need a decent person to lead the organisation. One who will wave the flag, who will stand firm, and who will not be pushed around by anybody. John is straight, he's decent, he's honest, he is working for farmers," he added.

Corkman