The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney was challenged in the Dail this week on his action regarding the availability of credit to farmers.

Longford/Westmeath deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister in a parliamentary question if he has had any discussions with the Department of Finance regarding facilitating progressive farmers who wish to modernise and expand their farms, with longer term loans.

Responding Minister Coveney outlined: “As far as credit availability to farmers is concerned, I met the CEOs of the three main banks at the end of last year, and all emphasised that the banks are willing and anxious to lend to farmers seeking to expand.”

“If a farmer has had an application for credit refused or reduced and feels that the bank’s decision is unjustified, he/she can seek to have the issue reviewed by the Credit Review Office, he added.”

He commented: “My Department is represented on the SME State Bodies Group, chaired by the Department of Finance, which aims to increase new lending to SMEs, drawing on both bank and non-bank sources of funding.”

Interestingly the minister noted that: “Officials from my Department have raised the credit requirements for farm expansion in order to achieve the Food Harvest 2020 targets, and in particular farmers’ needs for longer term loans for capital investment.”

According to the Central Bank, which issued its Business Credit and Deposits Q4 2013 report this week. The agriculture sector continues to comprise the largest share of gross new SME lending, with more than €173m lent out by Irish banks during the last quarter of 2013.

The minister was also keen to highlight state support for on-farm investments. He said: “The final tranches under the TAMS Dairy Equipment, Rainwater Harvesting and Sheep Fencing/Handling Schemes closed at end-December 2013 under the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme and my Department is currently processing the applications received.”

“A consultation paper in relation to the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme has also been prepared which sets out a number of priorities in the case of on-farm investment schemes under the new Programme, including further support to encourage investment in the dairy sector due to the forthcoming abolition of milk quotas and an enhanced scheme of grant-aid for young farmers with a special grant-rate of 60 per cent. The dates of introduction of these new schemes will be dependent on a number of factors, including the requirement to obtain EU Commission approval for the Programme concerned,” he concluded.

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