Further supports from Europe ‘will be difficult’ – Creed

Getting further Covid-19 supports for agriculture from the EU “will be difficult”, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Thursday, April 30, the minister said that the supports already announced, including an Aids to Private Storage (APS) scheme for dairy, beef and lamb, were “useful” but that he would continue to seek further support.

“At EU level, I recently led an initiative that resulted in the submission to the European Commissioner for Agriculture, by all 27 member states, of a joint statement seeking a commission response to Covid-19 impacts on farmers and the wider agri- food sector,” he said.

In response to this initiative, the [agriculture] commissioner announced a package of measures on April 22. This included private storage aid for the dairy and meat sectors. This support is useful. I am, nonetheless, continuing to mobilise support for a more comprehensive response at EU level, but this will be difficult.

Minister Creed went on to highlight the steps that have already been taken by his department in response to the Covid-19 impact, saying: “This year, it will be more important than ever that farm payments are made on time.

“Conscious of the cash-flow pressures on farms at present, I brought forward €26 million in GLAS [Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme] payments by a month. A new payment run is planned for each week to pick up any outstanding payments,” the minister added.

He continued: “I have also increased funding in the Calf Welfare Investment Scheme from €1.5 million to €4 million, to assist farmers with extra calves. TAMS [Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme] payments continue to average €1.3 million per week to farmers.

The preparations to ensure that €250 million in ANC [Areas of Natural Constraint] payments and €1.2 billion in basic payments are paid to farmers on time are continuing.

Minister Creed also noted “flexibilities” that have been put in place by his department, including extending the completion deadlines for TAMS by three months, and extending the submission date for nitrates records to the end of June.

“Routine inspections have been deferred temporarily.  Where possible, inspections are being done by telephone so as not to delay payment. I will keep these arrangements under review,” the minister pointed out.

Concluding his Dáil speech, the minister said: “The challenges facing us are economy wide, but I can assure the house that the agri-food and fisheries sectors will continue to be at the heart of Government deliberations as this complex situation evolves.”