EU rejects Irish plea for superlevy extension, for a second time

The EU has rejected an Irish proposal for a further extension of farmers superlevy payments for a second time.

It comes following intensive lobbying from farm organisations for the levy to be suspended in the face of dramatic falls in Irish farmgate milk prices in recent months.

Last year, at the request of Ireland and some other Member States the EU Commission introduced a provision last year permitting payment of the levy in three annual instalments, without interest, on the understanding that the full amount of the levy was paid to the Commission by the Member State in 2015.

The Scheme required applicants to pay at least one third of their levy by October 2015 with the balance to be paid in 2016 and 2017.

Ireland was one of the few Member States to implement this scheme and make it available to its farmers. The scheme design was agreed in advance with the co-ops and farm organisations here. The person named by the Deputy is an applicant under this Scheme.

As part of the discussions in the run-up to the March Council of Agriculture Ministers, Ireland proposed a further deferral of the payment to 2017 and 2018, to ease the financial burden on liable farmers in 2016.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed also raised the matter with Commissioner Phil Hogan, a recent bilateral meeting, as well as at the recent Council of Ministers meeting and encouraged him to reflect again on whether a legal basis could be found to facilitate a further deferral in superlevy repayments for farmers.

However, the European Commission advised that the legal basis for the Regulations underpinning the scheme are no longer in existence and therefore further amendments were not possible.

In recent weeks, Ireland again raised the matter with the Commission.

However, it is now understood that the view of the Commission’s legal services remains that there is no legal basis for any adjustment to the timelines provided for in the relevant regulations.

According to the IFA, the average superlevy fine still outstanding is in the order of €10,000 per farm.