Questioning the future of Macra is in danger of becoming an annual event.

The 2024 version is triggered by the perilous state of the accounts, with losses for 2023 of just over €400,000 incurred. That’s not sustainable, as CEO Mick Curran acknowledged when he said he would be preparing his own P45 if 2024 was in any way similar.With fund balances almost halving from €918,000 to €517,000, it’s not just his job that would be hard to maintain.

But what to do? The strategy outlined seems to pin a lot of importance on increasing patron membership. Currently, about 1,500 of the 11,000 affiliated members are patrons. That effectively is saying that the current generation of Macra members need the financial assistance of former members to keep the show on the road. It’s like a rural youth organisation’s version of when parents have to remortgage their house to help their kids buy a home.

For dairy farmers in particular, it may feel like double taxation, as they contribute through the milk levy, which, even with last year’s drop in prices, put almost €400,000 into Macra’s coffers. That was only €65,000 behind the membership income.

In fairness, there were a few one-off expenditure items, such as the Steps for our Future walk and the hosting of the CEJA, the umbrella organisation for rural and farming youth organisations, conference.

But an organisation like Macra should always have exceptional items. There’ll be national elections next spring for instance, which will incur a cost. The writing off of €140,000 to the Land Mobility Service sounds prudent, but it’s a concerning amount of exposure to have built up to a semi-internal programme.


There are parallels with the dilemma facing the GAA and its heavily-criticised match-screening GAAGO service. In order to increase subscribers, RTÉ and the GAA need to improve the quality of the service, but that requires money, and the main way to get more money in is to increase the number of subscribers. It’s a classic Catch-22 situation.

Similarly, Macra needs to increase revenue to maintain and improve the offering it gives members. But increasing revenue primarily means increasing membership. More members make the organisation more attractive to sponsors.

Is the €60 annual membership high enough? For a highly involved Macra member, it’s a pittance. It would only pay gym membership for a couple of months.

The issue here may be that only a minority of Macra members, maybe a couple of thousand, are regularly involved in competitions, community activity, and yes, Macra’s farming issues.

A lot of members enjoy the social side and the member benefits. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But increasing the membership fee risks alienating them, resulting in membership shrinking.

So CEO Mick Curran, president Elaine Houlihan and all in Macra face a defining year.

Everyone in farming will wish them well.