Farm incomes, Fair Deal and bringing young people into the IFA were all discussed at the IFA south Leinster regional chair debate hosted by the Irish Farmers Journal on Wednesday night.

Francie Gorman from Laois and James Kehoe from Wexford are going head to head for the position, which will be decided by postal vote.

On the beef sector, Gorman said that if there isn’t a beef sector, there won’t be a dairy sector.

“Supports in vulnerable sectors are hugely important, be it beef or sheep. We have got to come up with a pathway for the beef sector.

“It is unsustainable to think that we can try to farm in an area [like Ireland] compared to Brazil.

“If EU consumers want food produced to the standards they say they do, they’re going to have to pay for it,” he said.

James Kehoe said that there are severe income problems in the livestock sector.

“We need to ensure there are no more cuts to livestock farmers’ [payments]. We need a targeted payment to farmers who have beasts on the ground,” he said, adding that Brexit is a cliff edge.

If it hits beef price, Kehoe said that the IFA needs to ensure that “compensation is landed to farmers’ pockets quickly”.

“We need to ensure there is more competition in the marketplace, as competition drives price,” he said.

Young farmers

Kehoe said that there needs to be a strong income from farming so that young farmers can join the industry.

“We need to encourage young guys and ladies into the organisation. I was one of those young people that got involved and saw the value in representing farmers,” he said.

Gorman said that young farmers can’t be brought in to just fill a seat on a bus to a demonstration in Dublin.

“If you don’t move up [in the IFA], you move out. We can’t obstruct young farmers coming into the organisation,” he said.

Fair Deal

Both candidates said that there needs to be movement on the Fair Deal scheme.

Gorman said it is a disgrace that the scheme has been dragged along by Government.

“It has impacted on individual farm families in a massive way. No way should individual farm families have to sell out their holdings,” he said.

Kehoe said that he won’t be found wanting if a protest is needed again on Fair Deal.

“Leave no person behind – that’s what we have to employ with Fair Deal. It’s one of the biggest issues causing stress for young people and older people,” he said.

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