‘Raising the number of farmers in GLAS would help farm incomes’

Farm incomes could be improved, if more farmers were in GLAS, IFA President Joe Healy told TDs and Senators at a briefing today.

Healy and the IFA are calling for urgent action on farm income and said the briefing was the start of an IFA campaign to secure measures that will relieve the extreme income pressure being felt by farmers in almost every sector and every county of Ireland.

“There is an opportunity to support farm income by raising the number of GLAS entrants to more than 50,000 and by bringing forward the Government commitment to increase ANC payments to the upcoming Budget. Prompt payments and a 70% advance on the Basic Payment in October are also needed to help cashflow.”

Joe Healy said that with prices running below the cost of production on dairy and grain farms, farm incomes are in crisis and it’s being compounded by a clear market failure in the Irish financial sector.

“The cost of financing short-term working capital on farms is very high, with average quoted rates for overdraft facilities of 8%, and higher rates for merchant credit. These rates are totally out of line with interest rates of 2% or less available to some farmers on the continent.”

He said that the EU Agriculture Council has recognised the need to address cashflow pressures on farms with provision for State Aid through low interest loans or loan guarantees.

Our Government needs to move now to provide low cost short-term loans to alleviate cashflow pressures across all sectors.”

“The beef and sheep sectors make a significant contribution to Irish economic growth, through exports and employment, particularly in marginal areas. Despite their economic importance, farmers are not receiving a fair and sustainable income from these enterprises.

“To address this, IFA has made a strong case for the re-opening of Beef Data and Genomics Programme to applicants this year and for an increase in funding in Budget 2017.”

Healy also said that the Government’s commitment to €25m for a new sheep scheme is essential to maintain the national ewe flock.

This commitment must be acted on in Budget 2017 with the introduction of a simple and effective scheme that places minimal costs or bureaucracy on farmers.”

He also urged the Government to take a strong supportive stance on the campaign IFA is leading for the abolition of EU import tariffs on fertiliser.

“A report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), commissioned by IFA, clearly shows a failure of competition in the fertiliser market, costing European farmers up to €1bn. A strong government stance is required to support the abolition, which will deliver between €50m and €70m in annual savings for Irish farmers.”

Joe Healy said Irish farmers also need Government support for stronger EU legislation to tackle the dominance of retailers and wholesalers in the food supply chain as well as a strong stand against damaging trade deals.