IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said IFA will not attend the Farmers’ Charter negotiations scheduled for tomorrow (Thurs) after the Dept did a U-turn on appointing an independent Chair and are still planning to delay payments to farmers in 2023.
“IFA will not be attending any further negotiations until a promise made by Minister McConalogue at the Charter meeting in April to appoint an independent Chair to manage Charter negotiations is honoured, and the Dept agree to revisit their unilateral decision to delay payments to farmers next autumn,” he said.
“It’s nearly two months since the Minister promised an independent Chair, but DAFM officials confirmed yesterday (Wed) that none had been appointed. They are reverting to their position that an independent Chair would only be appointed after the talks, to chair Monitoring Committee meetings. That’s a complete U-turn on the commitment,” he said.
“At the March meeting, the Dept advised that they were delaying ANC payments by four weeks and BISS/Basic Payment by two weeks, without any discussion. They then wrote to farmers advising them of the later dates, even though IFA had completely rejected any delay to farm payments. It was a total sham,” he said.
“What we have had to date is a side show – looking piecemeal at individual aspects without tackling the substantive issue of farm payments for this year. Minister McConalogue cannot stand idly by while his officials railroad through changes which will mean delays to farm payments. It’s just not acceptable. It cannot always be the farmer who loses out. We need an independent Chair,” he said.
The Department’s delayed payments plan means that ANC payments would be pushed out by four weeks and the Basic Payment pushed back by two weeks.
IFA Rural Development Chair Michael Biggins said the Department seem to have no concept of the importance of these payments. Thousands of farmers have their businesses structured around receiving these payments on the dates they get them every year. Delaying them will affect bank repayments and cashflow to meet other bills.
“It’s proposed the ANC, for example, would be pushed back to mid-October. It normally lands the week of the Ploughing every year. The scheme is basically the same as it was in the old CAP,” he said.
“The Minister must take control of the situation now, appoint an independent Chair and put the necessary resources in place – whether that’s extra staff or the introduction of a temporary/interim payment – to ensure farmers get their payments on the same dates as previous years. Otherwise, there is a risk the Department action will cause significant cashflow issues later this year as bills arrive without money in farmers accounts to meet repayments,” he said.
IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden said direct payments make up over 100% of FFI on our vulnerable low income suckler and beef farms. These farms and the family income from these farms is based on the direct payments they receive and the timing of these payments is critical. Any changes to the long-established dates are in no way acceptable and must be revisited.