The establishment of a new organisation to bolster the public perception of Irish agriculture is being actively considered by leading players in the farming and food processing sectors, the Irish Farmers Journal understands.

The proposed new entity would be tasked with countering misinformation regarding the farm sector and challenging the negative portrayal of agriculture in relation to the environment, water quality, biodiversity loss and climate change.

In addition, the new body – which has yet to be named – would highlight the importance of farming and food processing to rural communities and the rural economy.

It is envisaged that the organisation, if given the green light, would become a “trusted source” for all matters relating to the agri-food sector.

Discussions on the formation of the new entity are being facilitated by Bord Bia and involve the main meat processors, dairy co-ops, horticultural firms and Teagasc.

The IFA and ICMSA have also been involved in the discussion process, although it is unclear whether they will actively support the initiative.

Independent entity

If it gets the go-ahead, the new body is likely to operate as a standalone independent entity, with its own secretariat and an annual budget of between €3m and €5m.

However, there have also been suggestions that it could be loosely linked to Bord Bia.

It has been recommended that the proposed body be funded by way of an annual fee charged on all participating companies, co-ops and farm organisations.

However, both the budget and funding model have proven contentious and are viewed as a major impediment to the initiative going ahead, the Irish Farmers Journal has learned.

It is also unclear how the new body would dovetail with existing organisations, such as Agri Aware and the National Dairy Council, which already work in the area of improving the public profile of farming and food processing.

Talks involving senior officials from the various stakeholders have been held on a number of occasions. A report on the progress of these talks, which includes concrete proposals on the establishment of the new body, are to be discussed by the various stakeholders at a further meeting next month.