Crunch time looms for farm incomes
Agriculture faces uncertain future as Irish presidency of the EU attempts to secure a deal on reform of the Cap
Some 120 members of the Irish Farmers’ Association will gather at their headquarters in Dublin’s Bluebell tomorrow for their annual general meeting in what will be a key year for the organisation.
The next six months will be crucial for farmers as the Irish presidency of the EU attempts to secure a deal on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Later in the year, the IFA’s 88,000 members will get the chance to vote for a new president to replace John Bryan who will finish his four-year term in December.
When Mr Bryan was settling into his new role in January 2010, an Irish Times editorial noted that there could hardly be a less favourable time to take charge of the farm organisation.
Code of practice
The country had just experienced two dismally wet summers, the recession was in full swing and farmers were under serious financial pressure.
The editorial writer said the most immediate challenge facing Mr Bryan involved the prices being paid for farm produce by factories and supermarkets.
Three years later, farmers are still highlighting the large gap that exists between farm gate and supermarket prices.
And they are still calling for a code of practice to protect producers from sharp practices by powerful supermarket chains.
Anecdotes abound about producers being asked for payments to put their produce on shelves, or keep them there, or to contribute to the opening of new outlets.
However, producers are reluctant to speak in public because of the risk of being blacklisted by retailers.
Mr Bryan has regularly highlighted this issue and he led protests at supermarkets last year in a bid to draw attention to the issue.
He says the retail giants are behaving “totally irresponsibly” by refusing to pay pig, poultry, fresh produce and liquid milk producers a fair price.
He has less than a year to see if his campaign will bear fruit and is expected to continue to put pressure on the Government to enact legislation that would see a code of conduct for the retail sector, backed up by an independent Ombudsman.
It was one of the grievances that led to the running of the “Day of Action” protest in Dublin last October.
Before the event, misgivings were expressed by some farmers who feared it could cause a backlash because all sectors were suffering in the recession.