‘Low-cost agri loan scheme must open due to fodder crunch’

The Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) is calling for the early opening of this year’s new low-cost agri loan scheme in light of the escalating fodder situation on farms.

With more heavy rain forecast in the coming days, the farm body is urging the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to come forward with “a comprehensive set of proposals” to address the escalating situation.

The farm lobby group is also demanding the suspension of all inspections and audits on farms until the situation is brought under control.

Earlier today, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that it is developing a support scheme to import fodder from outside the island of Ireland – the details of which will be worked on in the coming days.

Pat McCormack, president of the ICMSA, said: “Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse and at this stage, the minister and his officials are going to have to realise that many farmers have no fodder left and that fodder is simply not available locally for farmers.

In terms of a scheme to support the importation of fodder, a similar scheme was in place in 2013 and there should be absolutely no delay in introducing it.

“Amendments to the current fodder scheme should be announced immediately rather than waiting.

“Everybody knows the issues with these schemes and we need to get on with it,” said McCormack.

In relation to other matters, McCormack said that the department and related agencies should adopt the following measures:

  • The proposed low-interest loan scheme should be opened immediately and farmers struggling with fodder related credit issues should be supported;
  • All inspections, including Bord Bia audits, should be suspended until mid-May at the earliest;
  • The GLAS conditions in terms of ‘Traditional Hay Meadows’ and ‘Species Rich Grassland’ need to be relaxed to allow farmers graze them longer and to allow them to maximise their fodder potential for 2018.

“There’s enough stress and pressure on farmers at present without the pressure of cross compliance / GLAS inspections and audits. These need to be suspended immediately,” said McCormack.

Farmers are rightly questioning the support of Government in the current crisis and the minister must respond to show that the Government actually understands the problem and is willing to support farmers.

Low-cost loan scheme

Earlier this year, Minister Creed confirmed that a new low-cost loan scheme is scheduled to be up and running in the second half of 2018.

The department has secured a fund of €25 million which is intended to leverage the scheme; however, the total figure has not yet been quantified.

Last year, the government leveraged €150 million for its Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme – developed in cooperation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) – from a secured support fund of €25 million provided by the department.

The averageloan size drawn down under last year’s low-cost loan scheme for farmers was just shy of €34,000, according to the SBCI.