Macra na Feirme’s stance on the 2019 factory protests, the future of beef farming and the issue of inactive members were among some of the talking points at the northwest Macra presidential debate held on Monday night.
Presidential candidates John Keane and Daniel Long, both from Tipperary, were put through their paces by northwest members as they bid to replace Thomas Duffy.
Luna Orofiamma is the only candidate for vice-president in the northwest region and spoke of reengaging members during COVID-19 as a priority.
Daniel Long farms outside Clonmel and is involved in the leader partnership programme teaching IT to farmers.
The Rathkeevin club member wasted no time in putting the record straight about his involvement in factory protests during 2019.
“Yes, I stood at local factories along with fellow club members and yes, I criticised the organisation heavily for the handling of the situation," he said.
“Ultimately, members were not consulted in the decision-making process and ended up out on their own. I do not apologise for standing there and if I were to do things over again I would probably do the same again.
“Macra, ultimately, is a lobbying organisation, but if you're a farmer with an issue, you don't don't use Macra to lobby. As president, that is something I wish to address in the short term.”
Members highlighted that the northwest region is predominantly made up of suckler and drystock farmers. The presidential candidates were asked what they will do to help farmers in the sector.
Keane, who is a full-time dairy and beef farmer, said: “Protection of the 4% direct payment allocation to generational renewal is something we're going to have to fight for. Sustainability around the young farmer is something that's lost within the conversation of recent CAP negotiations.
“For young farmers within the sector their economic viability is under threat and I think that's something that we have to focus on.”
Meanwhile, Long said the organisation needs to be honest with its members.
“If something isn’t paying, there isn’t a market and there isn’t a future in it we need to be honest and say that. I think an honest conversation needs to be had with the industry, Government and other farm organisations.
“On the dairy side of things, we have the whole issue of the environment and unwanted male calves. It's not helping young farmers.”
Another member tuned in on Monday night asked the presidential hopefuls what their plans are for dealing with inactive members within the organisation.
Long said the membership figures in the public domain are not a true reflection of active members.
“I think it's wrong that somebody can sign up and not engage. I think that if you sign up, you at least try to engage with the club once through a meeting before you can avail of the membership benefits.”
Keane who is a member of the Devilsbit club said: “There's a role there for us to speak with benefit providers in terms of what's communicated to the individuals when that benefit is offered to them.
“When a member is signed up, development of our communication to that member is critical for engagement, whether be it at club or national level.
Cavan club member Noleen Kelly asked vice presidential candidate Orofiamma how she would represent women within Macra and make them more visible in the organisation.
In response Orofiamma highlighted that there are no events organised solely for women.
“I will be looking at having events across the northwest region, which will be prominently for our female members.
“We don't acknowledge the participation of our female members in certain events which are mainly participated in by male members such as the welding competition. So we really need to acknowledge female participation and start rewarding them.”