‘EU aid money should not be frittered away as collateral on low-interest loans’

ICMSA has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed to ensure the monies allocated to Ireland by the EU to address the dairy incomes crisis are spent on the specified purpose – helping dairy farmers.

The President of ICMSA, John Comer, has said that the monies should not be frittered away as collateral on low interest loans or distributed throughout all sectors of farming, regardless of their present situations.

Comer was critical of what he described as the “unwarranted complacency” that was evident in some contributions to the debate around how the Government should spend the EU €11m which ICMSA expects the Government to match.

“The starting point for any debate about how we should allocate the dairy crisis fund must be the reality that milk suppliers – even after the latest market rally – are receiving an average of three cents per litre less than the milk costs to produce.

“Farmer suppliers are still without any income from their dairying operations; that’s intolerable.

“It becomes even more impossible to understand why funds that the EU specifically allocated to Ireland to offset that income collapse are now in danger of being effectively hijacked to provide collateral for low interest loans from the banks – a bank subsidy, in other words.”

ICMSA is proposing that this funding is used to provide dairy farmers with a flat direct payment of €1,200, which is permissible under the regulations and would provide a level of support to dairy farmers during an extremely difficult period.

“Unlike other sectors, there are no coupled support schemes in place for dairy cows comparable to the BDGP in place for suckler cows and the new sheep payment being introduced.”

Comer said that the idea that money earmarked for dairy farmers could be diverted straight into the banks is just astonishing and unacceptable.

He noted that if the Government wanted to involve the banks in helping dairy farmers they could try convincing them to charge competitive rates.

But he was adamant that we cannot use crisis funding for farmers to subsidise banks that are now again making profits in the billions again.