Speaking after the Farmers Charter of Rights meeting, IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe acknowledged the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue’s attendance and chairing of the first session of yesterday’s meeting.
However, he said that little or no progress has been made on the Department’s delayed payments plan for 2023.
“The Minister must sort this out and ensure farmers are paid on the same dates as last year. The agreement to appoint an independent chair is a step forward but the 2023 payment date issue has to be resolved,” Brian Rushe said.
He said the Minister accepted the communication of the Departments proposed new payment dates should have been handled better and the issuing of letters to farmers without agreement and full sight of the proposed communication for the charter group should not have happened.
The letters issued to farmers outlining the proposed farm payment schedule were printed by the Department in February, the March Charter of Rights meeting were not informed of this intended communication and despite IFA completely rejecting the payment schedule at that meeting the Department of Agriculture proceeded to issue the letters to farmers.
IFA subsequently suspended our involvement in Charter negotiations and sought the direct involvement of the Minister for Agriculture.
Brian Rushe also acknowledged the Ministers commitment to establish an Independent Chairperson to initiate meaningful negotiations on the overall Charter of Rights, something which IFA have called for, what has happened to date has been a charade, with no opportunity of any meaningful engagement in developing a Charter that is fit for purpose and that respects the rights of farmers and the input of their elected representatives.
However, the IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said the substantive issue to be addressed in the first instance is the proposed payment dates for the CAP schemes for this year.
“We made it clear again that IFA cannot accept any delay in farm payments, particularly the ANC payment, these delays are because of internal Department constraints rather than any EU Regulatory requirement, this is not acceptable,” he said.
IFA National Rural Development Chair Michael Biggins said the Minister for Agriculture asked his officials to take on the board the proposals put forward to bring the payment schedule back to their original dates.
He said in particular the ANC scheme where no changes have been made to the scheme must be paid out on 20thSeptember. It is not acceptable that resource shortcomings in the Department of Agriculture and concerns for the capacity of the systems to process all of the farmer schemes will result in farmers payments being delayed by up to a month.
“The Minister must take control of the situation now 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 that Department action will cause significant cashflow issues later this year as bills fall without there being money in farmers accounts to meet repayments,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture are to review again their proposed payment schedule in advance of the next Charter meeting on May 11th.