Mass opt-out of IFA levy in wake of scandal fails to materialise

Pay controversy seen as threat to voluntary payment which is vital source of income

Former Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary Pat Smith and former president Eddie Downey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Former Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary Pat Smith and former president Eddie Downey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Predictions that farmers would stop paying automatic levies to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) in the wake of the pay controversy have so far not been true.

Several marts contacted by The Irish Times said while there was an initial reaction to the revelations, the mass opt-out forecast by some had not occurred.

The voluntary payment, also known as the farm-gate levy, is deducted from all farm sales to co-ops, processors and marts, and is one of the biggest sources of income for the IFA.

In 2014, it generated just under 40 per cent, or €4.7 million, of the association’s €13 million income.

Brendan Egan, manager of Castlerea mart in Roscommon, said farmer reaction to the controversy had been overtaken by concern about the floods.

He also said many were opting to wait and see the outcome of the IFA elections before deciding.

Roscommon Marts said it had received only one opt-out since Christmas, having dealt with dozens of requests in the immediate aftermath of the controversy back in November.

“The whole thing seems to have settled down quite a bit,” Clare Marts manager Martin McNamara said, saying that only a handful of farmers had cancelled in January.

“The one thing farmers are looking for now is a strong body to represent them given the current climate of volatility surrounding the sector.”

PJ Buckley, manager of Golden Vale Marts, one of the State’s largest mart groups, with venues in Kilmallock, Tullamore and Carrigallen, said there had been some opt-outs initially but not many since.

Funding of office

A prominent meat processor, which did not want to be identified, said it had only received a few inquiries about the levy since Christmas.

The IFA has so far declined to provide figures on how many farmers have opted out of the scheme.

The organisation’s former general secretary Pat Smith resigned last November amid a public outcry over the extent of his remuneration, which was €535,000 in 2013.