Four members of the IFA Grain Committee are preparing for their 4th night in the Department of Agriculture offices in Kildare St as the standoff between IFA and Minister Michael Creed intensifies.
The four farmers – Liam Dunne from Kildare, who is Chairman of the IFA Grain Committee, James Hill from Wicklow, Peter Lynch from Donegal and Kieran McEvoy from Laois – entered the Department offices last Wednesday afternoon and have been there since. A steady stream of farmers from all over the country has been coming to support them.
The issue relates to the details of a compensation scheme for farmers in the west who suffered unprecedented crop losses in the 2016 harvest.
Speaking from Kildare Street, IFA President Joe Healy said that the four farmers who were occupying the Department were not due to benefit from the proposed scheme and were acting solely in the interest of their fellow farmers in the counties affected.
“These farmers came to Dublin for an IFA Grain Committee meeting last Wednesday and have not been home to their families or their farms since. IFA members from all over the country have been coming to support them. The mood is hardening and we are prepared for the long haul,” he said.
“Under restrictive EU state aid rules, the maximum that the Department can give to any farmer under a scheme such as this is €15,000. While the IFA was unhappy with this limit, we accepted that it was non-negotiable as it was an EU rule. However, we were shocked when a Department of Agriculture spokesman leaked that a limit of €5,000 per farmer was being applied,” he said.
“We are talking about a relatively small number of farmers who are affected, but they are in a desperate situation since the 2016 harvest. The whole issue has dragged on far too long and the Minister needs to put a credible scheme in place as a matter of urgency,” he said.