A Galway dairy farmer has won 50% of the votes in the Irish Farmers Association elections to become its new president.
Joe Healy, 49, has a considerable task at hand as the organisation seeks to win back the trust of farmers after it emerged last year that IFA general secretary Pat Smith had a two-year pay packet, including pension contributions, of nearly €1m and had secured a €2m severance package.
It was also revealed that IFA’s general secretaries were paid €200,000 a year.
The average farm salary stands at €26,000.
Mr Healy, from Athenry, a former Macra na Feirme president and manager of Athenry Mart, described his win as a “great mandate to get”.
Mr Healy was elected on the first count. IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns came in second with 30% of the votes. Flor McCarthy, from Kenmare, Co Kerry, was in third place with 19%.
Mr Healy, a father of three, said he spent three months travelling the country canvassing for votes and that poor farm incomes were the main concern of farmers.
“Farmers need to get their fair share of market returns but almost all farmers are selling below the cost of production,” he said.
He committed to seeking to reduce input costs for farmers, who, he said, must also be helped become more efficient so the “maximum amount is passed back” to them.
Mr Healy told RTÉ that “it was clear from the hustings that farmers want more transparency in the IFA”, adding that he will work to restore the organisation’s credibility.
It is not known yet what salary he will earn from the position. An IFA renumeration committee will decide his salary as well as that of a yet-to-be appointed chief executive.
Mr Healy described the chief executive position as “crucial” to the future of the IFA and that it must secure the “best possible” person for the job.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney wished the new IFA president “the best” as he takes office.
“The IFA is an organisation which provides strong representation for farmers across a range of sectors. The agriculture industry is a key economic driver and we all recognise its essential role in Ireland’s economy,” he said.
Also yesterday, Richard Kennedy, the only candidate who is not a member of the IFA executive council, was confirmed deputy president with 40% of the votes.
Pat Farrell came in second place with 31% of the votes and Nigel Renaghan was third with 29%.
John Coughlan has been elected Munster chair, receiving 66% of the votes, John O’Brien came in second place with 34% of votes.
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