IFA Democracy in Action
IFA is a highly professional, well-resourced organisation whose record of delivery is the envy of many other representative bodies at home and in Europe. Central to the success and development of IFA is its structure.
The IFA has a mass membership with over 88.000 farmers contributing to the Association. A strong united membership provides the strength and financial resources to ensure that IFA delivers for Irish farmers.
The Association’s 946 Branches are recognised as the fundamental unit of the organisation, playing a vital role in IFA’s countrywide network, reaching into every parish across rural Ireland and maintaining our mass membership.
The President is at the head of the organisation, democratically elected as leader and chief spokesman of IFA by the ordinary members.
The National Officers including the President, Deputy President, regional Vice Presidents and the National Treasurer/Returning Officer elected by the Executive Council, together with the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary, comprise the Executive Board.
The job of the Executive Board is to advise the President and manage the Association between Executive Council meetings. The Board implements the decisions of the Executive Council, co-ordinates the work of the Committees and Project Teams, and maintains communications with the County Executives.
All IFA members are entitled to vote at Branch level in the national elections for the positions of President, Deputy President and regional Vice 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
3 votes for 51 to 75 members and
4 votes where over 75 members turn out.
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 15 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 11 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, Horticulture and Mushrooms. 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 returns.
IFA also has 4 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, environmental regulations, taxation, credit, farm safety, spouses’ pensions, etc.
A number of specialist committees and sections including the Hill Farming Committee, Fresh Milk Producers and IFA Aquaculture have direct access to the leadership and executive support at national level.
There are currently 10 Project Teams tasked with advancing specific issues affecting farmers in the following areas:
Climate Change & Renewables
Countryside & Rural Affairs
Flooding & Waterways Management
Inputs & Feedstuffs
Member & Discussion Group Services Development & Officer Training
Regulation & Direct Payments
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, the National Committee Chairmen and the 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:
6 other National Officers
29 County Chairmen plus 2 additional representatives from Kerry and Galway, the only counties more than twice the average county membership
12 National Committee Chairmen plus 1 additional Livestock representative
Macra na Feirme President
The General Secretary.
The National Pigs and Poultry Committees have shared representation on the Executive Council, while the Horticulture, Potato and Mushrooms 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 and Development Officers ultimately report to him.
The General Secretary is supported by the Assistant General Secretary and the Director of Organisation in managing the affairs of the Association.
The Assistant General Secretary has direct responsibility for servicing the Executive Council and the Executive Board and also for directing the Executive and support staff in head office at the Irish Farm Centre to ensure that the National Committees and Project Teams implement the decisions of the Executive Council.
The Director of Organisation is responsible for the Development Officers and Administrators in IFA’s regional offices, and for membership and income.
The Director of European Affairs, based in Brussels, and the Chief Economist at head office have key positions providing essential professional support in 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 National Press Office is responsible for all media, public relations, web communications and news text messaging by IFA, making sure the Association gets its message across on all issues of concern to farmers.