Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 23 October 2017

Farmers in call for €500m low-cost loan scheme

IFA's farm business chairman Martin Stapleton said costs would depend on the risk involved
IFA's farm business chairman Martin Stapleton said costs would depend on the risk involved
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers are calling for provisions to be made in Budget 2018 for a new €500m Government-supported low-cost loan fund after the first scheme was heavily oversubscribed.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has set out proposals, varying from increased funding for the nursing home Fair Deal scheme to raising the earned income tax credit.

IFA's farm business chairman Martin Stapleton said the demand for the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland's (SBCI) low-cost loan scheme clearly far "outweighed" the €150m available.

"From our point of view, I'd like to see a €500m fund at a minimum being made available," he said, with the funding available for ongoing working capital and also on-farm investments. "The cost of that would again depend on the risk that is associated with it and the interest rate that is on it."

The Agriculture Cash-flow Support Loan Scheme, developed by the Department of Agriculture to the tune of €25m, and SBCI made money available to around 4,000 farmers at low-cost interest rates of 2.95pc.

However, Mr Stapleton said there would be ways to "strike a balance" by significantly reducing the cost by slightly raising the interest rate and also seeking security for the loan.

IFA president Joe Healy warned the sterling depreciation was impacting particularly harshly on the agri-sector, yet it continued to deliver significant employment and export growth.

The IFA want farmers and rural communities to be able to take a slice of the renewable energy action by buying into projects. In addition, among the taxation proposals in the Budget submission, it sought changes to ensure farmers would be more willing to opt for renewable projects by allowing farmland carrying solar panels to qualify for relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

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IFA economist Rowena Dwyer said there was a social and rural "economic dividend" to encouraging on farm investment in renewable energy. She said rural communities should be encouraged to invest directly in renewable energy projects, as otherwise it would just be "large-scale development".

The farm body has suggested that solar-panel infrastructure projects should be given priority grid access if their funding structure had a community finance element.

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