BY SEAN CLARKE
THE Irish Farmers Association is hugely indebted to the thousands of members who have worked to ensure IFA has remained a strong voice for Irish farmers over six decades.
At local, national and EU level, IFA’s active and dedicated voluntary officer structure, in particular, has worked to improve farm incomes and to address issues across the entire spectrum of agriculture and rural affairs.
IFA’s success in countless campaigns would not have been delivered without the strong support of loyal members. Members’ commitment to the IFA has contributed greatly to the protection and advancement of Irish agriculture.
Sixty years on, the issues may change, but our job in IFA is exactly the same as the founding fathers saw it – to do everything in our power to improve the incomes and conditions of all farm families.
In 2015 Irish agriculture is still the backbone of the rural economy, supporting 300,000 jobs and with real potential to grow the volume and value of our high quality food products for consumers across the world. However, extreme price volatility, escalating input costs that bear no relation to product prices, excessive bureaucracy, the threat of damaging trade deals and the inequity in returns from the food supply chain between producers, processors and retailers must all be addressed.
Farm output has driven food exports and contributed to economic recovery but farmers are not seeing the benefits in their pockets. Farm profitability must be the top priority if the viability of hard working and productive family farms is to be protected, as it must be.
Farm profitability comes down to family farms getting a fair price for their product. This requires action by politicians in both Dublin and Brussels and by the industry to face up to the hard issues, as they arise.
Farmers are delivering top quality product to the highest standards in the world and must be properly rewarded for it. There must be recognition for what farmers have done to modernise and adapt.
Farmers have invested over €7bn in the last 10 years in upgrading farms; over 50,000 farmers are in Quality Assurance Schemes; our 18,000 dairy farmers are engaged in the Dairy Sustainability Programme; farmers have embraced Discussion Groups and IFA want these available in all sectors. Farmers are also engaging in the IFA-led Smart Farming Initiative to improve returns through better resource management.
Through our branches, county executives and national committees, the IFA has a unique democratic structure that has delivered the best possible results for all Irish farmers for 60 years and will continue to do so into the future.
To mark 60 years of NFA-IFA representing and fighting the cause for Irish farmers, the Association here in West Cork is holding a 60th anniversary celebration dinner-dance in the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway, on Saturday, November 14th, at 8.30pm. IFA President Eddie Downey will attend as guest speaker on the night and I have no doubt that it will be a night to remember. Tickets are available at €25 from branch chairmen or by contacting the Cork IFA office at 021-4545944.
In conclusion, on my own behalf and on behalf of our West Cork chairman Richard Connell, I want to thank all the generations of IFA voluntary officers and members who have contributed to the Association’s success over the last 60 years. I can assure you that IFA remains a strong and united force and will continue to build on our strong record of delivery for our members in the years ahead.
• Sean Clarke is Cork IFA Regional Development Officer