Government stays out of levy row between IFA and ABP

The Department of Agriculture is to remain neutral in an ongoing spat between the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and ABP over the collection of levies. 

The row started when ABP announced it was introducing an ‘opt-in’ model for farmers who wish to continue paying into the European Investment Fund (EIF).

In response to this, IFA president Joe Healy wrote to ABP owner Larry Goodman today, instructing him to suspend the collection of the levy on behalf of IFA, with immediate effect.

He said: “ABP will not dictate how IFA represents farmers or how farmers decide to support their Association”.

The IFA president made it clear that ABP Group is no longer authorised to collect any levy on behalf of the lobby group.

The Department of Agriculture said the situation was “entirely between ABP and the IFA”.

It is estimated that ABP collects around €400,000 per annum in levies for the IFA and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association. Overall, the IFA receives around €4.7 million in levies from Irish businesses.

Farmers who have concerns about monies deducted by ABP have been advised by the IFA to contact the company directly.

Beef processor Dawn Meats has stated that it has no plans to change the automatic levy collection from farmers. In a statement, it said: “Dawn Meats has no plans to change existing levy collection arrangements unless asked to do so by farmers or the farm organisations.”

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Patrick Kent used the opportunity to re-iterate his call for a review of all levies, statutory and non-statutory. “ICSA gets no levies whatsoever. Farmers are under severe income pressure and deductions from factory cheques add up to a considerable sum. Overall, we are talking about tens of millions of euros taken from farmers at a time when the farmer is the only one making nothing out of the agri-food sector.”

He said that we need an immediate acceptance that all non-statutory levies should be on an opt-in basis only. “It is an interesting legal question whether taking levies without consent or on an opt-out only basis would stand up.

“Regarding the statutory levies, we need a re-assessment of whether farmers should be liable for these costs. Why should farmers pay for marketing a product that they do not own? No other industry operates on this basis, so how come we are stuck with these bills? The reality is that farmers sell cattle and sheep and get paid as little as possible by factories. It may have been palatable back in the 1980s when the price of cattle and sheep meant that farmers were getting a fair share of the retail price but that day has long since passed.”

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