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IFA Review: Uncertainty Looms as Completion Date Remains a Mystery

"IFA Review Progress Remains Uncertain as No Timeline Set for Completion"

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is currently undergoing a major review of its internal workings, with plans to modernise the association and adapt to the new challenges facing farmers. The review, which was announced by IFA president Tim Cullinan during the association’s annual general meeting in January 2022, is being facilitated by external consultants with expertise in organisational structures. Although no timeframe has been given for the completion of the review, the IFA is considering ways to make better and more effective use of voluntary officers’ time at all levels, including the use of technology.

Cullinan has previously highlighted the need to attract more new people to take on roles in the IFA, and the review is examining if the current structure of the farming organisation is suitable for modern corporate governance requirements. The IFA is also considering moving from being an unincorporated or voluntary association to limited company status, which could afford better legal protection to IFA members in the event of litigation being taken against them personally by a third party arising from association activities, such as a protest.

“The review is looking at all aspects of how we conduct our work. This includes the status of the organisation. The [IFA] National Council is having ongoing discussions on proposals brought forward to them by external facilitators,” said an IFA spokesperson to Agriland. However, it is unclear if the review will be completed and adopted by IFA National Council before the end of Cullinan’s term as IFA president, which is due to finish next January following an election to select his successor in December.

The IFA is the largest farming organisation in Ireland, representing over 70,000 members across the country. It was founded in 1955 and has since played a key role in advocating for Irish farmers and promoting the agricultural sector. However, the organisation has faced criticism in recent years over issues such as transparency and governance.

In 2015, former IFA general secretary Pat Smith resigned amid controversy over his pay package, which was reported to be in excess of €500,000. The scandal led to calls for greater transparency within the organisation, and the IFA subsequently introduced a number of reforms, including the appointment of an independent chairperson for its audit committee.

More recently, the IFA has been at the forefront of campaigns to secure better prices for farmers, particularly in the beef sector. In 2019, farmers staged a series of protests outside meat processing plants across the country, demanding better prices for their livestock. The protests led to a temporary agreement between farmers and processors, but tensions between the two sides have remained high.

The IFA has also been vocal in its opposition to the proposed Mercosur trade deal between the EU and South American countries, which it says could have a negative impact on Irish farmers. The deal, which has yet to be ratified, would see increased imports of beef and other agricultural products from South America, potentially undercutting Irish farmers and leading to a reduction in standards.

Despite these challenges, the IFA remains a powerful voice for Irish farmers and a key player in the agricultural sector. The ongoing review of its internal workings is seen as a positive step towards modernising the organisation and ensuring it remains relevant in a rapidly changing industry.

Categories: Agriculture