Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Tillage crisis fund is back on the table

250 grain farmers have suffered losses running into the millions, according to the IFA
250 grain farmers have suffered losses running into the millions, according to the IFA
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The establishment of an emergency fund for tillage farmers hit by poor weather during harvest 2016 has gained momentum after progressive talks last week.

Speaking after another sitting of the Tillage Stakeholders Forum, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed admitted "it may be possible" to set up a crisis fund.

Between 200-300 farmers, mostly from western counties, are believed to have suffered devastating crop and financial losses as a result of inclement weather last autumn.

Although Teagasc has stated it does not have concrete data on crop damage, the IFA claim that approximately 245 farmers lost up to €3.032m on grain and €1.073m on straw. Although Minister Creed previously voiced concerns over a lack of concrete data on the crop losses, he now appears more optimistic.

"We had a very useful engagement. On the possibility of a fund, we discussed all of the difficulties that we have in terms of verification and lack of data, and what we have agreed is that we will sit down with those organisations and explore what might be possible and that is going to happen shortly.

"There may be a fund set up, it's up to us now to find out if it's possible to have one based on verifiable losses that, at this remove, are difficult to identify. We are going to sit down again in the coming days," he said.

However, speaking to the Farming Independent at the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) AGM, Minister Creed also stressed that challenges still remain.

"I am obliged as a protector of the public purse to make sure that anything we give out, we can stand over. The secretary general in the Department was at the forum from the public accounts committee, with the controller and auditor general, rightly accounting for every penny. If there is a fund, we have to find a way that it would work," he said.

Seán Finan, national president of Macra na Feirme, called for immediate action on an aid package for young tillage farmers at the forum last Thursday.

"We welcome the indication from Minister Michael Creed that he is willing to discuss the mechanics of how an aid package could be rolled out. We don't have time to delay on this given the financial challenges and difficulties some young tillage farmers face on the ground."

Mr Finan also welcomed the announcement that the Tillage TAMS scheme will soon be announced but stressed that it must contain measures that are "reachable and economically feasible" for young farmers.

"The measures need to suit all-sized operators and those who are starting their tillage farming careers," he said.

Meanwhile, farmers across the south east attended a Teagasc seminar on malting barley against the backdrop of low incomes in the sector. It focused on the technical aspects of producing malting barley for brewing (beer) and distilling (whiskey) markets.


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