There was a good turnout at Hannon’s Hotel, Roscommon last Saturday evening as Creggs man John Hanley launched his bid to become Chairman of the Connacht branch of the Irish Farmers Association.
Mr. Hanley, who served as county chairman of the association from 2014 to 2018, faces a challenging task as he bids to become the first provincial chair from Roscommon since Joe Murphy in 1985.
Joining Mr. Hanley last Saturday night to launch his campaign was Roscommon IFA Chairman Jim O’Connor, who was full of praise for the man from Kilbegnet.
“No-one I know is better suited to this role. John has been involved with many strands of agriculture…his involvement with the IFA and agriculture is not contained to Kilbegnet either. The Hanleys have hosted (events such as) the International Sheepdog Trials and Ploughing Championships, and John is closely associated with the Roscommon Lamb Festival,” he said.
Former Macra na Feirme President Sean Finan was also in attendance to officially launch Mr. Hanley’s campaign.
He said: “In 2015 I stood at the launch of my own campaign for Macra na Feirme President. I was successful and my election campaign was the foundation of that success.
“I hope we can now set the foundation stones for John’s campaign. No doubt you’ll leave here brimming with enthusiasm to convince board members to elect this man,” he said.
John Hanley thanked those present for their support as well as executives from both Roscommon and Leitrim for putting his name forward for election.
“Since the nomination I have been contacted by many farmers across Connacht offering support in the coming weeks and while I am on the road meeting members across the province, I would like to thank my brother Brian and father Noel for keeping the show on the road. Without their work at home, I wouldn’t be able to keep the farm work done at the moment.
“The reason that I am contesting this election is that farmers in Connacht need action. They need action on farm incomes and a range of other measure which will help safeguard the future of the family farm in the west.
“I am well aware of the genuine anger and frustration that is out there in relation to the issue of farm incomes. Farmers in the west, particularly in the vulnerable sectors such as suckler and sheep, have seen their incomes eroded, as input prices rise and the prices offered for their produce fall to disgraceful levels of 20 years ago,” he said.
Mr. Hanley said he believed the family farm was under threat adding that the sector was losing 1% of farmers annually.
“Farming is always an uncertain business, dependent on lots of variables, including weather, international markets and trade deals, which are outside our control, but we do need to be assured that if we are producing top quality produce that we are going to be rewarded properly,” he said.
Mr. Hanley also highlighted the threat the agriculture sector faces from Brexit and the Mercosur deal and called on farmers to stand up for the rights of Irish and European consumers to access safe food.
Mr. Hanley also discussed issues such as the Early Retirement Scheme, falling suckler numbers, and the Sheep Welfare Scheme, and expressed his belief that cut-off weight limits for lambs should be removed.
He also questioned the practice of “farming by calendar”, saying it made no sense. He added that schemes such as CAP and ANC were vital for farmers in the west who faced the threat of flooding once again this year.
Concluding, Mr. Hanley said that minds at national level “needed to be focussed” on issues in Connacht and that it was important farmers in the province had a strong voice on the national stage.