Urgent action is needed to address the deepening farm income crisis, IFA President Joe Healy said today at a briefing for TDs and Senators in Dublin.
Today’s briefing is the start of a major 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. At the briefing, IFA representatives spelled out the steps required by Government to deliver positive change for farmers.
Cash flow problems
Joe Healy said, “With prices running below the cost of production on dairy and grain farms, the income crisis is 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.
“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,” Joe Healy insisted.
Farm scheme supports
Direct payments make up a significant part of farm income, particularly for drystock and tillage farmers. IFA President Joe Healy said, “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.
“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.
“The Government’s commitment to €25m for a new sheep scheme is essential to maintain our 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.”
Farm Assist and the Rural Social Scheme are vital supports for low income farmers, Joe Healy said, “The review of Farm Assist, promised in the new Programme for Government, must reinstate the income and child disregards abolished by the previous Minister. Their abolition had a dramatic effect on the qualification criteria for Farm Assist and with farm incomes under severe strain across most sectors, it is important that changes are made and the assessment process carried out in a fair way reflecting the volatility of farm incomes.”
Strong stance in Brussels
IFA President Joe Healy 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.