The current government continues to blatantly overlook the needs of Irish tillage farmers, according to Fianna Fail Agriculture Spokesman Charlie McConalogue.

What this boils down to is a lack of political will to support a minority of Irish farmers, he said.

“I have just returned from Brussels where I met with representatives of Phil Hogan’s cabinet. They made it very clear to me that Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, can avail of the opportunity to raise the issue of a tillage crisis fund at an upcoming Council of Ministers’ meeting.”

But McConalogue also pointed out that Michael Creed can address the issue of a crisis fund at a national level.

“The current ‘de minimis’ regulations allow the Irish government to make available bespoke support measures for farmers, provided the payments do  not exceed €15,000 per producer over a three year period.”

McConalogue added that ‘de minimis’ funds must be sourced from national exchequers.

This would not be EU money. But that should not be a problem. Current figures indicate that the Department of Agriculture will under spend its 2016 budget by €34m.

“Of this, €14m has been allocated to fund the previously agreed livestock aid package. And I am aware that government has agreed to forward pay our 2017 commitment to the World Food Programme.

“So this means that there is a €20m of funding already allocated for 2017, which now has no home. I am proposing that €5m of this available budget should be used to fund the tillage crisis fund. And this is a decision which the Government can take immediately.”

McConalogue confirmed that he had broached this issue with Michael Creed at an agriculture committee meeting, held last week.

“I also brought it up during questions in the Dail on Wednesday of this week. But the Government continues to stall on this crucial issue for tillage farmers.

“I find it shocking that Michael Creed refuses to help such an important grouping within Irish agriculture, many of whom are in genuine need at the present time.”