IFA urges Creed to ‘reject all conditionality’ linked to €100 million beef fund

Joe Healy, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), is urging the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to “reject all conditionality” linked to the roll-out of the much-anticipated €100 million beef fund.

According to draft regulations for the “implementing act” of the Irish beef sector aid – which comprises of a €50 million fund from the European Commission, matched by an additional €50 million fund from the Irish Government – the exceptional support monies will only be made available on the basis of “specific criteria”.

The document, seen by AgriLand, outlines these conditions as: “aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector”; plus the implementation of other additional objectives framed on improving sustainability at farm level.

It is understood that this draft regulation reflects the “preliminary views” of the commission services.

It is also understood that the whitepaper has been sent to member states for comment and it is not yet the official position of the commission.

Tying it up in knots

However, the IFA has this evening, Thursday, June 6, blasted such caveats in the allocation of the beef fund.

“Minister Creed must reject all conditionality in the draft regulation that does not relate to the actual income losses experienced by beef and suckler farmers,” said Healy.

“This Brexit beef fund is for retrospective beef price losses that farmers have already incurred.

Restructuring is a totally separate matter; it was not mentioned by the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, when the scheme was announced and was not part of the IFA submission on Brexit losses.

“This aid must not be made conditional on restructuring,” he said.

Healy stressed that “every cent” of the fund “must go directly” to farmers. He stated that “under no circumstances” can any of it be diverted elsewhere.

It would be wrong if the commission and the minister were now to embark on a convoluted process to take the good out of the scheme by tying it up in knots.

“The message from farmers is clear that this funding must get to the farmers who have incurred the losses and need it most, as soon as possible,” he said.

Substantial losses

Meanwhile, Angus Woods, chairman of the IFA’s National Livestock Committee, said Commissioner Hogan “made it clear” when the fund was announced that it was “for farmers who had suffered substantial market disturbance and it must be paid out as soon as possible”.

IFA is clear that the funding must go to farmers who sold prime finished cattle since last autumn and to suckler farmers.

“IFA has set out six principles as regards how the funding should be allocated. We are currently consulting with our members through regional meetings,” he said.

The farm lobby group is currently carrying out a series of regional meetings aimed at addressing the allocation of the beef fund.

The next meeting will take place at the Tullamore Court Hotel on Monday, June 10; this will be followed by a meeting at Nuremore Hotel, Carrickmacross, on Tuesday, June 11; and then at The Abbey Hotel, Roscommon, on Friday, June 13.

Further meetings are also scheduled.