New national farm organisation to launch in February

Organisers say farmers feel existing farm groups are ‘stale’ and unrepresentative

The priority of a soon-to-be-launched farming group is protecting farm incomes and the viability of the family farm, according to organisers. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

The priority of a soon-to-be-launched farming group is protecting farm incomes and the viability of the family farm, according to organisers. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

A new national farm organisation will be launched in February and will focus on keeping family farms viable, spokesman for the organisers Colm O’Donnell said.

Mr O’Donnell, a farmer from Sligo, was IFA’s rural development vice chairman until last week but he said he had taken the decision to resign in light of his plans for the new association.

He said the group came about due to a feeling that the other farm organisations were not representing the views of marginalised, low income farmers.

“The association will be launched in one month which will give us sufficient time to look at the kind of structure we want to put in place,” he said. “There is a large groundswell of support for this organisation and we want to get it right from the start.”

While plans for the organisation had originated with hill and commonage farmers, he said he believed the group could attract farmers from across the spectrum: “Farmers from a number of counties met in Westport on Sunday evening and a committee has been formed to work towards launching the organisation,” he said.

“At the meeting there was a view that farmers’ issues were not being satisfactorily represented by the farming organisations. There is a feeling that the farm organisations that are currently in place are stale.”

Protecting incomes

Mr O’Donnell said the priority of the new group would be protecting farm incomes and the viability of the family farm and it had already made progress on certain issues.

He said a series of meetings in Letterkenny, Maam Cross and Westport had attracted more than 3,600 people, while 2,500 had supported a protest outside Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office highlighting concerns of hill and commonage farmers.

“So the support is there. How many members could we have? How long is a piece of string? We’ll have no political agenda. We’ll be policy driven and we’ll be as strong as the farmers who join us, ” he said.

“If we get it right and farmers are listened to, and not dictated to, we should be an organisation that will be sustainable right into the future and that will protect the interests of family farms.”

There are four main national farming organisations: the Irish Farmers’ Association, the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association and Macra na Feirme. There are also some smaller groups and organisations representing specific interests such as organic farming.