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Facing the challenges in the farming sector

THE PRESIDENT of the Irish Farming Association Kilkenny man, John Byran has been announced as a keynote speaker at the Kilkenny Chambers upcoming business conference which will take place at the Ormonde Hotel on October 9.

THE PRESIDENT of the Irish Farming Association Kilkenny man, John Byran has been announced as a keynote speaker at the Kilkenny Chambers upcoming business conference which will take place at the Ormonde Hotel on October 9.

The farmer, who originally comes from Dunbell but has been farming in Inistioge for over 30 years cites the CAP as the biggest single issue for farmers. “The IFA is working closely with Europe, in particular with the older 15 member states to maintain the level of the payment. It is important to keep the Minister focused on CAP and active production. A recent report by University College Dublin showed that the agricultural and food sector are worth 300,000 jobs and this has a substantial impact on the economy. We need the CAP to maintain that production.

“The second issue is commodity prices. We are working on an ongoing basis with food processors to set domestic prices. We meet with the food retailers to highlight the cost of food production and we are pushing hard for retail legislation but progress in this area is slow. What we are looking for is the cost of production plus the margin for the primary producer. I would also be calling on the department to be more consistent and understanding in the way that they carry out their inspections and asking for more tolerance and acceptance,” he said.

The father-of-two admits it is ‘hard to switch off’ for the job which details 24/7 commitment. “At any one time there are a series of issues, whether it be with the pig men or the grain men who have cut their corn but no way to salvage their harvest or the dairy farmers who have less silage and of a poorer quality,” he said.

Mr Byran attended the Christian Brothers in Kilkenny and then joined the guards. “At the age of 22 I inherited my aunt, Nellie Murphy’s farm in Inistioge and I have added bits to it since,” he said. He lives there with his wife Rena, who is originally from Johnstown and the couple have two children Cathy and James. He became secretary of the Inistioge branch of the IFA in the 1990’s and quickly became delegate to the Kilkenny City Executive. In 1998 he became the Kilkenny representative on the Livestock Committee and in 2000 he led the beef blockade against the meat factory in Granagh which lasted for two weeks. “The protest helped to readdress the balance between the farmer and the factory and there was an acceptance that the primary producers had rights,” he said.

From 1999 to 2003 Mr Byran was county chairman in Kilkenny and in 2004 he was appointed National Livestock Chairman. “I stepped down as county chair then as it would have been impossible to do the two,” he said.

In 2007 he ran a major campaign on Brazilian beef and visited South America on two occasions. He returned with his findings and reported them to the European Commission. “I visited a lot of farms over there where there was evidence of hormones and lack of traceability. We forced the Commission to ban beef from a number of Brazilian Stares and to introduce tighter regulations. The amount of Brazilian beef imported was dramatically reduced as a result of our campaign. We put pressure on the factories and reduced imports and beef prices rose between 2004 and 2007 and peaked in 2008 when there was a full ban for a period of time on Brazilian beef,” he added. Another major success during Mr Byran’s time as the National Livestock Chairman was securing in getting 250 million euro for the Suckler Welfare Scheme.

In 2008 Mr Byran came back as county chairman and spent most of 2009 working with people to run his Presidential campaign. “There are 29 executives spanning all over the country and we had to canvass every single one,” he said. He was elected President in December 2009 and took up the role on January 12, 2010.

“As the head of the IFA I am in charge of policy and I chair the council which meets once a month where policy is decided. “Negotiations with CAP are key in my presidency and I work closely with Europe. I am based in Dublin but travel to Europe once a week. It can be very demanding but I enjoy it a lot.”

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