All IFA members are entitled to vote at their local Branch meeting in the national elections for the positions of President and Deputy President. This gives IFA’s leaders a powerful democratic mandate. Voting in IFA’s national elections is by proportional representation (PR) and each Branch vote is weighted to reflect the turn-out of members as follows:
1 vote for 8 to 25 members turning out
2 votes for 26 to 50 members turning out
And 1 additional vote for each further 25 members who turn out.
The four Regional Chairmen are elected by the members of the County Executives within each region, Munster, South Leinster, Ulster/North Leinster and Connacht. The regional Chairmen are responsible for communicating with County Executives between Council meetings and co-ordinating campaigns at regional level.
The Association’s 29 County Executives play a central role in the organisation, providing the all-important communications hub between national level and Branch members on the ground in each county. For organisational purposes, Cork is divided into three County Executives – Central, North and West – while Tipperary has two County Executives, North and South. The job of the County Executives is to canvass the views of members and Branches on policy and other issues, and to represent those views within the Association, through the various National Committees and at the Executive Council. The County representatives at national level also have the important task of reporting back to their counties on IFA activities, national policy decisions and other developments.
The Chairmen of the County Executives have key responsibilities as both the IFA leader and chief spokesman in their county, and their county’s representative on the Executive Council. The County Chairman is supported by the other elected County Officers, in particular the County Vice Chairman and the County Secretary, and also by the Development Officer and Administrator, who are based in the local IFA office.
IFA’s 14 National Committees have the crucial job of identifying important issues within their areas of responsibility, analysing and interpreting issues, and formulating policy and strategy to deal with the challenges facing farmers. There are ten Commodity Committees charged with the responsibility of pursuing the interests of farmers in each sector, namely Livestock, Dairy, Liquid Milk, Sheep, Pigs, Poultry, Grain, Potato, Farm Forestry and Horticulture. Each Commodity Committee constantly monitors all relevant markets to ensure that producers are equipped with the best market intelligence to bargain with processors and maximise product prices. IFA also has four Cross-Sectoral Committees – Rural Development & Less Favoured Areas, Environment, Farm Business, and Farm Family & Social Affairs – which are responsible for advancing and protecting farmers’ interests in the major non-commodity areas such as farm investment grants, REPS/AEOS/GLAS, environmental regulations, climate change, taxation, banking and credit, farm safety, spouses’ pensions, etc. A number of specialist committees and sections including the Hill Farming Committee, Mushroom Committee, Fresh Milk Producers and IFA Aquaculture have direct access to the leadership and executive support at national level.
There are currently 9 Project Teams tasked with advancing specific issues affecting farmers in the following areas:
Flooding & Waterways Management
Inputs & Feedstuffs
Direct Payments & Protocol
Retailer, Processor & Consumer Relations
The President and Executive Board, in consultation with the Executive Council and National Committees, appoint the members of the Project Teams and their Chairmen are fully accountable to the Executive Council.
The Executive Council is the national governing body of the IFA, bringing together the County Chairmen, National Committee Chairmen and National Officers under the leadership of the President who chairs its meetings. The Council has a hands-on involvement in devising IFA strategy and providing the engine for policy and delivery. The IFA governing body has 53 members and a strong democratic mandate. It is comprised of: President 6 other National Officers 29 County Chairmen plus 2 additional representatives from Kerry and Galway (the only counties with more than twice the average county membership) 12 National Committee Chairmen plus 1 additional Livestock representative Macra na Feirme President General Secretary. The National Pigs and Poultry Committees have shared representation on the Executive Council, while the Horticulture/ Potato Committees also share a seat. The Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal and the President of ICOS are non-voting observer members.
The General Secretary is the Chief Executive Officer of the Association. He works very closely with the President at all times in leading the Association and directing resources to achieve IFA’s objectives, and he is accountable to the Council. The General Secretary is responsible for all matters relating to staff and all Executive Staff, Development Officers and support staff ultimately report to him. He is supported by the Assistant General Secretary and the Director of Organisation in managing the affairs of the Association.
The Assistant General Secretary is responsible for servicing the Executive Council and the Executive Board and for directing the Executives and support staff in head office to ensure that the National Committees and Project Teams implement the decisions of the Executive Council. He also supports the National Treasurer/Returning Officer to ensure the smooth running of IFA elections. The Director of Organisation is responsible for the Development Officers and Administrators in IFA’s regional offices, and for membership, income and member services and benefits. The Director of European Affairs, based in Brussels, and the Chief Economist at head office have key positions providing essential professional analyses and support towards meeting IFA’s objectives in European and national policy. The work of the National Committees is guided and supported by high calibre professional Executives, who are specialists in their fields and experienced negotiators. The Financial Controller has exclusive responsibility for maintaining the Association’s accounts and financial records. He works closely with the National Treasurer/Returning Officer who presents Financial Statements to the Council and to the Annual General Meeting for approval.
The National Press Office is responsible for all media, public relations, and digital communications by IFA, making sure the Association gets its message across on all issues of concern to farmers.