Suckler, beef and sheep farmer Francie Gorman is not in a derogation at the moment, but he has been in derogation.

“It still affects me and all farmers in this area through the availability and price of land for rent,” the Laois man told the Irish Farmers Journal this week.

“I know that’s not the case in other parts of the country, but it has a huge impact in this area, and many other areas too. Whether you’re in derogation or not, whether you’re in dairy or not, it’s going to impact on you, directly or indirectly.”

Is a universal 250kg N org/ha derogation attainable?

“I think we have no choice but to continue to fight for it. There’s no discernible increase in water quality going to be achieved by dropping to 220kg, and it’s going to impact on the financial viability of the dairy sector at farm and processor level, and indeed on all sectors at farm level.”

Calf exports

“My understanding is that the ban on calf imports into the Netherlands is not a fait accompli yet. As a member of the European Union’s single market, we’re entitled to export our goods as an island nation into Europe.

“Calves are no different. The key is we need to have good-quality calves, healthy calves, which in general we have. They’re in demand, so we need to market our calves just like we market any product.

“If the Dutch ban them, we need to go to the EU and see that it’s overturned, and get fair play as an agricultural exporting nation, so we need to ensure we’re not discriminated [against] because of that,” says Gorman.


Gorman is adamant that a €300/head suckler payment is needed.

“We export our beef into premium markets all over the world, and no country that exports beef gets into a premium market without having a suckler herd.

“We need our suckler herd. Suckler beef farming is practised in areas of the country where you can’t practise much else, except maybe sheep.

“It needs to be supported. It hasn’t been supported sufficiently up to now, and we in IFA haven’t taken a strong enough position on that, and we need to.

“When you go to parts of the west of Ireland, I get that from farmers, that we haven’t done enough to support the suckler sector, and I hear them.”


“The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) is likely to be a once-off payment. My opinion is there needs to be an increase in the ewe payment up to €30/ewe, and that needs to be delivered for the lifetime of the next CAP.

“On the BAR, I believe that we in IFA haven’t lobbied hard enough, early enough to ensure that the criteria relating to that fund was fit for agriculture firstly.

“Secondly, when you see beef processors getting money from the BAR with no strings attached, you have to come to the conclusion that there’s not a willingness in Government to support agriculture through the BAR.”


“A support package needs to be urgently put in place for the 2023 harvest.

“We’ve got it for beef twice in the last six years, we got it for dairy in 2016, we got it for pigs last year. If there’s not a substantial tillage support package this year, there’ll be farmers who grew corn this year that will not be growing it next year.

“If we want to aid tillage farmers, we need to put a package in place, not a land rental support, which at the end of the day would just drive up land rental prices.

“I’d like to see something like the Tillage Incentive Scheme, but the money from that should all be going to tillage farmers. That scheme was made available to all farmers, and in truth, it’s turned out to be a bit of a grass reseeding scheme, in some cases.”

After this interview, a €28/ha support payment for the sector was announced.

Francie Gorman with his son. Tom.


“I’ve been 100% clear on rewetting long before I ever decided to run for IFA president.

“There can be no more mandatory designations of land for rewetting, full stop.

“If they want to rewet peatlands, then do it firstly through the State-owned lands.

“If individual farmers decide that they want to take part in a programme for some form of rewetting of their land, I don’t have an issue with that, provided they are properly rewarded, and absolutely provided that they are not affecting the water table of adjoining farms or affecting how their neighbours farm.”

Forced designations

“But I repeat, there can be no forced designations on land, for rewetting or anything else.”


Gorman doesn’t accept that the IFA is seen as anti-environment or climate sceptic among the general public.

“We are categorised in that manner by a small number of anti-farming environmentalists that seem to have got a leg into the media, who are buying into that narrative to a degree. That doesn’t mean that we get a free pass on the environment, nor have we looked for it.

“Over the last five years, farmers have adopted numerous measures on their farms, and all we are asking for is time for those measures to work.

Francie Gorman on his farm.

“You may well see an improvement in water quality coming down the tracks, and people might attribute it to a reduction in stocking rates through the derogation changes. Whereas in actual fact the measures that people have taken – buffer zones, less fertiliser, protected urea, better breeding practices, multispecies swards, low emission slurry spreading – there’s a whole host of them there.

“It’s likely that the improvement in water quality will come from the adoption of those actions at farm level, and we need time for that to happen, and we need the credit to be properly given to farmers.”


“We should be proud of what we do as farmers, and we in the IFA should get out there and take every opportunity to go on media and put that point forward on behalf of farmers. I feel we’ve been a little reluctant to take that step at times.

“The general public respects farmers, they trust them, and we need to keep making the point that we are a food producing nation, feeding 40m people. That’s a massive achievement, we’ve got to be allowed to continue that work, but always in the most sustainable way possible, taking on any new measures that come our way to continue improving the environmental sustainability of our business.”

The IFA itself

The Laois farmer believes that the IFA is fit for purpose as an organisation that can represent all farmers and every farmer.

“We can’t allow farmers to be divided among themselves, so we need an organisation that can pull together a position that all farmers can back,” he says.

“The motto the IFA has always had, of strength, unity, and delivery, that still rings true. We’re got to advocate harder, and get in earlier with pro-active positions on key policy issues.

“We can always do better, we need to show our members that we will lead. I’d like my term, if elected, to be judged on the organisation I leave behind me after four years. I do believe that every card-carrying member of IFA is entitled to equal representation.

“Certain sectors feel that they haven’t got that over the last 15 years or so, and I intend to rectify that.”

The one thing he’d do differently as president

“There’s a disconnect between the [IFA] committees and national council.

“While the president or the director general doesn’t need to be at every commodity meeting, if there’s a big issue that’s coming up, like the grain sector at the moment, I would be sitting down at the next grain committee meeting, listening to what people have to say, and coming to council with an agreed position that has the committee’s backing and my full support.

“We also need to bring more young people and women into positions of responsibility and let the next generation drive on the association.

“I’d also engage more with other farm organisations – when we rightly disengaged from the charter, we should have met the other farm organsations a lot sooner. Everybody ended up backing themselves into a corner on Kildare Street. Not where you want to be.

“We should be seeking to find the things we all agree on first, and maybe we need to be a little more generous in our space, as the senior organisation.”

Hobbies: Sport; hurling, football and rugby, in particular.

Favourite film: The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Barry’s or Lyons: Barry’s.