Timmy O’Brien has been running his own agricultural contracting business in Mallow, Co. Cork for nearly 30 years. He is also a founder-member and director of the Association of Farm Contractors in Ireland (FCI), which is a representative body of Irish farm contractors.
FCI was established two years ago by Timmy and fellow farm contractor Peter Farrelly from Kells, Co. Meath, and has gained considerable momentum since then with its membership currently standing at around 200. The Association, which held its first conference in Monastervin, Co. Kildare in November 2012, was formed to give agricultural contractors a voice at Government and EU level.
Its other objectives are to promote good contractor / farmer relationships; to promote the benefits of a good agricultural contracting service; to provide members with knowledge and courses to help them run their business; to promote a good working relationship between contractors.
In addition, FCI aims to provide a fair playing field for contractors north and south of the border regardless of their size. Owned and run by its members for its members, FCI aims to make local branches as active as possible and to facilitate group discussion and possible group action on issues that affect their businesses.
“We’ve had a great response from contractors,” Timmy enthuses.
“Peter Farrelly and I felt the agri-contracting sector wasn’t been recognised and that there wasn’t enough being done by the existing association (PAC). We quickly discovered that a lot of the TDs, Ministers and people in power didn’t even know we existed as agricultural contractors. We thought we were being represented at Government level, but obviously were not.
“Now that FCI is raising the profile of agricultural contractors at Government and EU level, we would like all contractors to join us and help us to achieve betterment for agricultural contractors. We have made a lot of contacts in Ireland and in Europe and have been invited to join CEETAR which is the European Association for all contractors where we will need a lot of representation in the future.”
He continues: “We have been working on invoicing where a farmer should have an invoice to match every payment he makes, the same as any other business. We have also been lobbying to have the slurry spreading and hedge cutting seasons extended. We’re working to have the carbon tax rebated to agricultural contractors as farmers and non vat registered agricultural contractors have the benefit of claiming the carbon tax back against their tax returns, thus giving them an unfair advantage over the registered contractors.
“According to European legislation, there should be no carbon tax charge on agricultural work and the produce of food.”
FCI has branches in Cork, Meath, Kilkenny, Wexford, Galway, Sligo, Offaly, Tipperary, Limerick, Kerry, Laois, Wicklow and Kildare, and plans to expand further.
“We are aiming to be a 32-county association. FCI is a discussion group between contractors. Contractors are under pressure and they need some outlet. We need to pull together and figure out where we are going.”
Membership of the FCI costs just €200 per year and those interested in joining should call 087-755 1111. Meetings are held on a monthly or bi-monthly basis during the winter period, which typically is a quiet time of year for farm contractors.
Timmy O’Brien set up his own farm contracting company, Egmont Agri Ltd, in Mallow in 1986. His father, Tim, who continues to run a dairy farm at the age of 86, had been in the business before him, so it was nothing new to Timmy, who is married to Nora and has three children, David, Sharon and Thomas.
It’s a real family affair as Timmy explains: “We all chip in. My wife does the accounts. David works with my father milking and drives a rake for me during the silage season, Sharon does a lot of baling and raking for us, while Thomas, who is in Junior Cert, also draws and stack bales when his sister moves the tractor from farm-to-farm for him. He has diesel flowing through him!”
Employing eight full-time staff and covering a 20-mile radius of Mallow, Egmont Agri Ltd specialises in baled silage, slurry spreading, planting grain, harvesting grain and ploughing. Timmy operates a fleet of 14 New Holland tractors ranging in years between 2013 and 2000. Two of the newer models are on hire from well-known New Holland dealers, WR Shaw Ltd in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
“We have two 13 registered T7200s on hire from Shaw’s. They each have over 200hp. Our biggest tractors are a New Holland T730 and T740 which have over 250hp each. We buy all our parts from local dealers and distributors including Corbett Bros, Atkins, McCarthy Plant & Agri Sales Ltd, CFM, John McCarthy Agri Machinery Ltd, John O’Neill Oil and Michael Ryan Lubricants & Co Ltd.
Egmont also operates four grain trailers (two Smyths, one Kelly and one Kelleher), two CLAAS combine harvesters, four slurry tankers (two Abbey and two Major), three ploughs, four McHale Fusion round-balers and two Kverneland silage racks. At the time of writing, Timmy was due to take delivery of new SaMASZ mowers.
Recently, Egmont became a distributor for the Brazilian-manufactured Jan Chaser Bins which, according to Timmy, can give up to 20 per cent more efficiency from the combine.
“Farm machinery is a rough and tough game to be in when rules, regulations, insurance and health & safety are taken into account. There is a lot more management involved than 20 years ago. It’s not something anyone can pick up. You have to be around it all your life,” the affable farm contractor stresses.
Egmont Agri Ltd
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 2 No 1, May 2014