Ministers urged to implement low-cost loan scheme

The continuing nonappearance of the Brexit Low Interest Loan Scheme was top of the agenda for the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) ahead of the announcement of Budget 2019.

This follows meetings with both Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed and Minister for Finance and Public Reform Paschal Donohue in recent days.

“The concern is that the Department of Agriculture seems intent on restricting this scheme to investment-only and doesn’t want it utilised for the cashflow crisis arising out of the fodder situation,” ICMSA president Pat McCormack said.

Urgent

“But, we’ve asked the minister to reconsider urgently and accept the reality that farmers desperately require access to low-interest funding immediately, regardless of what purpose the fund was originally designed for,” McCormack added.

In relation to fodder, the president said that the southern half of the country is the worst affected at this stage and the minister should introduce a fodder transport scheme similar to last spring’s subsidy, so that any surplus fodder in the northern half of the country could be brought south at a reasonable price level.

“Farmers need every support to boost fodder levels and a national scheme should form part of this response,” he said.

The ICMSA delegation also stressed to the minister the need for live exports to be ramped up immediately for weanlings and store cattle in particular.

If farmers are to pay the bills associated with the fodder crisis, they will need a strong price for their cattle this autumn – and the only way that this will be achieved is if live exports numbers are increased considerably.

On the topic of beef prices, the ICMSA president stressed that Minister Creed must clearly spell out to the meat plants that they have a role to play – and cutting farmer prices at this time is not acceptable.

“The meat industry is well supported by state agencies and they need to show some level of commitment to farmers at this time,” continued McCormack.

The ICMSA stressed to both ministers the need for specific and focused measures in Budget 2019 to address income volatility for farmers, according to the association.

McCormack noted that 2019 has yet again highlighted the extreme income pressures on farmers and the taxation system has to recognise the extreme volatility in farm income that was now becoming more frequent and more destructive.

Measures must be introduced that would allow farmers to put aside funds that could support them through difficult years, he concluded.

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