Surprise; surprise: 84% of those who participated in our most recent poll affirmed their belief that the collection of levies by meat/dairy processors on behalf of farming organisations does create a conflict of interest.

This does not mean, however, that Ireland’s farming industry can do without an effective voice at the very heart of the EU decision making machine. In fact, the very opposite is the case. However, what the views expressed by visitors to do confirm is that the farming organisations must be totally open in the way they go about all of their activities

Increasingly, farmers are becoming extremely suspicious of the way in which the processers go about their business. Quite rightly, they feel that they are at the mercy of the big brother approach taken by the meat factories and those other organisations buying produce off-farm.

In response to this, the farm lobby groups have demanded that the processing sector be totally transparent in the way it goes about its business. But transparency is a two-way street. If I as an individual farmer commit to allowing the factories, dairy processors and the marts pick up the European Involvement Fund (EIF) levy, then I have every right to know how much is being collected, and how and by whom is my money is being spent.

Given this backdrop, one might wonder at the thinking behind the IFA’s assertion that it has a problem in signing up to the principles enshrined within Brendan Howlin’s ‘Registration of Lobbying Bill’.

And, of course, the financial stakes for the recipients of EIF funds are about to get considerably higher, given the prospect of all that extra beef and milk coming through the system over the coming years.