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Francie Gorman: ‘If you told me three months ago I’d be where I am today, I’d take it’

His son, Tom’s, 10th birthday party at Roll and Bowl, Portlaoise, took more out of him than the previous five months on the IFA presidential campaign trail, laughed Francie Gorman.

The Ballinakill beef, suckler and sheep farmer is the current chair of IFA South Leinster and a former Laois IFA chair. He and his wife Kay run the 130 acre farm they inherited from Francie’s father, Tom.

One of two candidates for the presidency, the former Macra member is up against Martin Stapleton from Limerick and is seeking the support of the 72,000 members of IFA.

It has been a grueling few months for the Laois man who has the backing of Anna May McHugh, Managing Director of the National Ploughing Association.

“I’ve been around every county at this stage. There’s 29 county executives, three in Cork and two in Tipperary.

“I’m very happy with the response and help we’ve got from people around the country, particularly the help from IFA in Laois, my own branch here in Ballinakill and surrounding counties in South Leinster,” he said.

“I’ve got terrific support and have done well in the debates. The media side of it has gone very well and I haven’t really dropped the ball at any stage during the election campaign which is important as well.

“All round, If you told me three months ago I’d be where I am today, I’d take it.”

The big concern for farmers on the ground, according to Francie, is that they feel that IFA is not proactive enough in representing them on the issue of the day.

“It comes across time and time again that we’re too reluctant to put our best foot forward for farmers and not proud enough on how we go about representing farmers and tackling the issues that are concerns for them.”

Francie Gorman

The issue that is attracting most attention right now is “everything environmental,” Francie contended. “It’s how environmental regulations are going to impact on how we farm and the way we’re been portrayed by a small element of non-farming people in the media,” he said.

Income, is as always, the dominant worry. “Cash flow has tightened up on farms in a big way this year and input costs have remained stubbornly high. It’s been a very tough year for farmers, particularly in the tillage sector.”

If he won the presidential election, he would have to get in help to run the farm. “Labour availability on farms is a huge issue across the board. Labour availability for contractors, even labour availability for meat processors, is a big issue across the board. In the economy as a whole it’s a huge issue.”

His wife Kay is actively involved on the farm. She’s from a strong farming background outside Callan, Co. Kilkenny. “She has a great interest in the farm and she works in FBD Insurance as well. She’s from a very strong drystock farming background,” Francie said.

Son Tom can also be called upon to help out. “He’s absolutely mad about farming. He’s getting good now, he can do stuff, he’s well able. He’s going to be everything from a pilot to a bus driver to a farmer and everything in between.

“He has a huge interest in farming, whether he maintains that, who knows. I’d love to see him coming home to farm at some stage. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to, full-time or part-time if he wants to drive the farm on.

That issue of inheritance is huge, Francie acknowledged. “I see it in the best of farms, farms you would die for. They have family there but no-one interested in taking the farm over. And you would have to ask yourself in the developed world who will produce the food in the next 20 years?

“It’s alright in Third World countries if they get their act together, they will, but you look at the developed world and mechanisation, research technology, GM and you don’t know what way it’s going to go. At the moment succession is a massive issue.”

This is the first year that postal voting has been an option and Francie is appealing to members to return their postal votes before the end of the week.

So what does he think of it as an offering? “I think the jury is out on postal voting, I’m not sure. I’d say it’s an area that will have to be looked at once the election is over and see how we move forward. It certainly gave people that would not go to a meeting, an opportunity to vote.”

The need for more women to join and move up the ranks of IFA has been raised numerous times over the years.

“As an employer we’ve always had our more than fair share of female employees working in the association at senior level and I’ve never seen a barrier as such to women coming in and taking up a position in the association.

“The association needs to be more welcoming of women and younger people coming in. That’s a huge issue for us as well. It’s an untapped resource for the association.

“We’re struggling to fill officerships in branches around the country and there are plenty of women out there well capable of doing a really good job, with the right amount of encouragement to get them involved.”

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