Margaret Donnelly: IFA in desperate need of passionate election candidates to ignite interest in presidential race

With the election not taking place until the end of the year, there’s still plenty of time for candidates to announce their intention to run, although the number of potential candidates is reducing week by week.

The Association needs an election to ignite interest among members and the public. Passionate contenders setting out their vision for the future can help farmers focus on what they want from their farm leaders.

An uncontested election serves no one well and many would say the Association has been in the doldrums for the past few years, no doubt impacted by the constraints of Covid.

The cost of running a presidential campaign is eye-watering, even with some help from IFA HQ. Add to that the headwinds the sector is facing into, the increased public criticism and the reduced cache the role holds, and it’s not the attractive proposition it once was.

The landscape in farming and wider afield has changed since the last election four years ago. The agri-food’s role in keeping rural Ireland afloat during the post-Celtic Tiger economic downturn just a decade ago seems to have been forgotten by most.

Now the talk from many, both inside and outside the sector, is how to rein it in.

From the savior of rural Ireland to… well, that’s the problem — no one seems to know exactly what the messaging to farmers and people in rural Ireland is.

It seems to be a bit of ‘we like what you do, but not how you do it’, set against an undertone of ‘ignore what you were told, the science has changed’.

The value of the agri-food sector was highlighted by Tirlán (formerly Glanbia) during the week, with its analysis that it is responsible for nearly 20,000 jobs in rural Ireland, but it was Meta’s layoff of 500 jobs that grabbed the headlines.

​Putting aside the increasing divergence and specialization within the sector, the biggest challenge for the next IFA president will be communicating the positives of the sector.

It has a huge role to play in helping reduce our emissions and is the only sector that can offer a solution in absorbing greenhouse gas emissions. Portraying it in a positive light will be as tough as many pushes to shut it down.

Now, more than ever, the IFA needs a president who is prepared for an uphill battle on a number of fronts.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo