At a time when bad weather, late turnout and increased feed bills, compounded by low milk prices are stressing farm cash flow and farmer confidence, IFA National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary welcomed today’s meeting of the Dairy Forum Sub Group, convened to find practical ways of supporting farmers.
All stakeholders, including the Department officials, gave a clear commitment to delivering practical financial planning advice and support to the farmers in greatest need. In this context, Mr O’Leary said it behoved Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to explore every option to utilise the new temporary State Aid allowance.
“We understand that the new exceptional State Aid allowance of €15,000, decided by the EU Agriculture Council on 14th March and up for further discussion today at the April EU Ag Council meeting in Luxembourg, can be used to provide “loans or guarantees” to farmers without a requirement to reduce production. We are urging the Minister to explore three possible uses – not necessarily mutually exclusive – for this aid:
1) The provision of interest free/cheaper short term finance to “bridge liquidity gaps” (cash flow);
2) The provision of a one-year moratorium on Superlevy repayments – as the EU has already received the full payment from the member states;
3) The provision of tax measures aiming at helping farmers to better manage highly volatile incomes, as proposed by IFA.
“We are committed to participating with the other stakeholders to help ensure that the farmers in greatest need of short term financial support and advice are identified and assisted appropriately. Banks must be proactive in contacting customers early, and in offering flexible and reasonably priced short term finance to tide them over. Co-ops too will be aware of the financial difficulties of their suppliers, and must continue to support them by holding milk prices,” he said.
“Finally, we are also totally committed to supporting the Farm Financially Fit initiative currently being developed by Teagasc. It will offer farmers workshops, farm walks and other interventions through which they will learn how to do a cash flow budget, and how to identify costs that can be cut without damaging the long term sustainability of their enterprise. We urge farmers to look out for those events, and to encourage friends and neighbours they know to be under pressure to consider participating,” Sean O’Leary concluded.