IFA President Joe Healy, responding to today’s announcement of the EU aid package, said Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed must secure maximum flexibility to ensure Ireland’s share of the €350m package can be used to support farmers’ cash flow across all sectors.
Mr Healy said it is important that the bulk of the funds made available for farmer supports under the package are not conditional on farmers scaling back production.
“Today’s package confirms that member states may make advance payments of 70% of Direct and 85% of Rural Development payments on 16th October. This will help farm incomes in a very difficult year,” he said.
He added: “Minister Creed must optimise the value of Ireland’s €11.1m share of the funds announced today. First, he must provide national matching funding, and secondly, he must use this to reduce the cost of short term borrowing for farmers in all sectors,” Mr Joe Healy said.
“Exceptional State Aid measures allowing for the provision of loans to cater for liquidity gaps were voted on by the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers in March 16. In addition, existing State Aid de minimis regulations allow for support of up to €15,000 across all farming sectors. On that basis, IFA has proposed a State-Aid backed loan package allowing farmers to deal with merchant credit, superlevy and other bills,” he said.
“Today’s package of support could be used to enhance the proposed loan scheme and must be delivered urgently,” he said.
Commenting further, IFA National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary said: “The €150m portion of the package which is conditional on production control must not disadvantage Irish farmers who have expanded in the legal certainty of quota removal last year.
“The extension of SMP intervention and APS should send a positive message on markets at a time when prices are already starting to firm in response to easing global and EU output.
“However, as it will be some time before the more positive market trends translate into viable milk prices, it is urgent that the Minister would act on farmer supports. A fast rising number of dairy farmers are now struggling to meet their daily family needs, never mind pay business bills,” Sean O’Leary concluded.