The Irish Farmers' Association has formally launched its campaign for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

IFA President Padraig Walshe said it is important that Ireland remains at the heart of Europe so that farming interests are protected.

In the first campaign, the IFA withheld support for Lisbon until the Government gave assurances about using the veto in world trade negotiations.

The IFA says the reasons for voting in favour are compelling, despite the current problems in agriculture and the suggested cutbacks in the 'An Bord Snip Nua' report.

The organisation points to the benefits of the euro, the large EU subsidy for Irish agriculture and the opportunities Europe provides in attracting foreign investment to Ireland.

Mr Walshe said his members would differentiate between European issues and the poor decisions being taken on farming by the Government.

He said Ireland would have more goodwill in Europe if it votes Yes.

Mr Walshe predicted that the vast majority of his 85,000 members would vote in favour of Lisbon despite a No campaign being run by a handful of IFA members.

'Bad deal for rural Ireland'

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Martin Ferris has called on farmers to vote No saying 'the Lisbon Treaty was a bad deal for rural Ireland in 2008 and it remains a bad deal today'.

The Kerry North TD said during the last Lisbon referendum there were serious concerns raised by the farming community about the World Trade Organisation trade talks.

Martin Ferris calling for farmers to vote NoHe said, 'Irish farmers and development NGOs are rightly concerned at the agenda being pursued by the then European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, an agenda that was bad for Irish farmers and the developing world.

'The approach of that Trade Commissioner is part of a pattern that emerged under his predecessors Pascal Lammy and Leon Brittan and is continuing since he left under the current Commissioner Catherine Ashton.

Mr Ferris said the Commission's trade agenda 'aggressively promotes' free trade irrespective of the costs to European family farms and rural communities, or the world's poorest communities and countries.

'Article 2 (b) of the Lisbon Treaty gives the EU exclusive competence over commercial policy, including the negotiating of international trade agreements', he said.

'Article 188C contains new provisions that will considerably strengthen the Commission in its pursuit of free trade over fair trade.'

Mr Ferris said if the Lisbon Treaty is passed the EU Commission will have the power to initiate and conclude international trade agreements and in all but the most exceptional circumstances the Irish government will no longer have a veto at the European Council.

He said this would allow the European Commission, with the support of the Irish government, to do with the farming industry exactly what they have done with the fishing industry.

Ireland will hold its second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October.