Martin Stapleton officially launched his campaign to become the next president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) with a promise to put honesty and hard work at the heart of his tenure if elected.
He said his campaign would be founded on four key pillars: to restore respect for farmers, to foster unity in the IFA, to ensure farmers have the freedom to farm, and to protect farm incomes.
“I’m here to offer straight talking, to outline how I will protect and defend your livelihoods for the next four years,” Stepleton told those at the launch of his campaign at Ballykisteen Hotel near Tipperary town on Saturday night.
“I’ll make no false promises: I offer only honesty and hard work,” he added.
Arguing that the IFA had “lost influence”, the farm body’s current national treasurer promised to “work night and day to harness the collective power” of the association.
“I will build quality working relationships between the IFA and the Government representatives who oversee the legislation that affects our way of life.
"I will also build quality working relationships with our food purchasers and service providers, ensuring a proper two-way interaction for the betterment of all,” Stapelton insisted.
However, the Limerick farmer said he would directly challenge food processors or the Department of Agriculture - as he had done recently on the issue of delayed payments - if farmers were not being listened to or respected.
“I want non-members to once again sit up and admire the qualities of the IFA. I will communicate your message clearly and show the Government that there’s real strength in our numbers and in our message,” he maintained.
Stapleton said the position of farmers on issues such as climate change, water quality and the environment needed to be clearly set out and defended and must not be allowed to misrepresented.
We, as farmers and farming families, have the right to farm our land in a way that we know works best for us
“It is not good enough anymore that we seek only to defend our position. Too often, we are asked if we are ‘climate change deniers’ or a ‘hard-right organisation’. No, we are not, but if the question is being asked, we do have a perception problem,” Stapleton pointed out.
Right to farm
Stapleton also insisted that farmers must retain what he described as “the right to farm”, and he called for greater “balance between food production and environmental issues”.
“My position is clear: we, as farmers and farming families, have the right to farm our land in a way that we know works best for us, within reason of course. Any interference in that basic freedom should be resisted,” he told the campaign launch.
“That includes any policy decisions set by Dublin or Brussels that control the livelihoods of farmers and take away our ability to make our own decisions,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton told the launch that since 1995 he had worked to develop and grow the family farm.
“Myself and my wife Siobhán and our family know what it takes to keep going, to meet the challenges head on,” he said.
“My pledge, if elected, is that you will all be heard within this organisation. My promise is that the IFA will be heard loud and clear at every level in order to secure the future of every Irish farmer,” he said.