A Roscommon-Galway TD has called for clarity on the finer details of the young farmer loan scheme in relation to the criteria for eligibility, maximum and minimum loan amounts and interest rates.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has welcomed the launch of the €1 billion loans package by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) targeting young farmers.

Announced by the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, and the vice-president of the EIB, Andrew McDowell, the loans package aims to increase access to funding for EU farmers.

Commenting on the matter, the Roscommon-Galway TD said: “First of all, any funding made available to young farmers must be welcomed.

Access to finance at affordable interest rates is currently a serious obstacle for young farmers in Ireland.

“It is quite obvious that there is a significant appetite among farmers for affordable loans, you just have to cast your mind back to when the Agriculture Cashflow Support Scheme was launched in recent years.

“From talking to officials in the banking sector this morning, it is my understanding that the initiative will not be up and running until the middle or end of May at the earliest.”

“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, needs to ensure that a priority is given to these small, family farms.

“It will also be interesting to see whether the ‘forgotten farmers’ will benefit as a result of this initiative; it is time for the minister to bring these farmers in out of the cold, because they have been neglected for far too long,” he outlined.

Continuing, Fitzmaurice pointed to EU statistics which show that 27% of the loan applications submitted to banks in 2017, by EU young farmers, were turned down; compared to just 9% of other farmer applications.

Hopefully the introduction of this scheme will reduce the rejection rates suffered by young farmers.

“Also, I hope that whispers of a minimum loan application of €50,000 as part of the package are untrue.

“If this is the case, there will be smaller farmers – especially in the west of Ireland – who require loans in the region of €20,000 or €30,000 who won’t be facilitated.

These cheaper loan initiatives cannot be aimed consistently at larger farm enterprises. Small, family farms – those under 100ac – should also be given special consideration under this initiative.

“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, needs to ensure that a priority is given to these small, family farms,” he outlined.

Concluding, he reiterated: “It is important that we welcome this announcement, but farmers need to hear all the details.”