“The banks have to be flexible,” noted John Fitzpatrick in his annual treasurer’s report to the Laois IFA AGM in the Killeshin Hotel. Mr Fitzpatrick prefaced his comments regarding the banks, noting that farmers are playing a major part in economic recovery.
It was a theme that County Chairman Peter Luttrell also highlighed to the meeting. With 3,000 farmers in Laois, he pointed out some of the benefits of the agricultural sector to the overall local economy, and the spin offs in terms of employment and industry.
Detailing the various commodities and their performance over the past year, he noted that dairy farmers would need a three cent a litre increase in price to cover input costs, which have risen by 14 per cent over the past year. “Input costs have eroded any profits,” he stated. “The incoming government will need to supply market supports.” Regarding the outgoing government Mr Luttrell displayed little affection for the Green Party. “The Green ideology was going to devastate farmers,” he stated.
Elsewhere, farm inspections represented another layer of bureaucracy, and farm safety is an ongoing priority following a terrible year for on farm deaths in 2010. The Single Farm Payment also needed to be defended vigorously in the upcoming negotiations.
Guest speaker Pat Smith, General Secretary IFA was blunt in his appraisal of economic conditions. “We are living in very volatile and uncertain times. The economic conditions at EU and international level are very concerning,” he noted.
“In IFA, we have taken the view to go against the trend of negativity and portray a postive image of agriculture. I believe now the sector has something which has been missing for the past few years, and that is respect. For the first time in a long while we have gained respect as an economic driver.
“We need stability and a very strong mandate from the incoming government.” Mr Smith identified a number of pertinent core issues, including the continuation and maintenance of support for farm schemes. “The maintenance of tax reliefs will be a huge battle for us. Can anyone at EU level say what will happen tomorrow. There is financial pressure on different countries and there is no certainty we will be able to maintain the budget.
“At EU level trade deals are a big issue. Bad trade deals are a disaster for Irish farmers. Most of the Commission is in favour of these deals and, make no mistake, it will be detrimental to our beef, grain and dairy industries.” Mr Smith also noted the importance of ensuring a soft landing for the abolition of dairy quotas in 2015.
Regarding a new government he sounded the following warning. “There are people in Labour who would be quite happy to put down another another climate change bill. You can be sure though that food security and water scarcity will become a much more serious problem than carbon.”