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Clinton calls for new round of debt deals

Farmers in financial strife over off-farm investments have been advised to make a settlement with their bank.

Former IFA president Tom Clinton told a Positive Farmers' conference in Limerick that settlements had to be made in the 1980s and needed to be made again.

However, he said this time banks had also contributed to the problem and had to recognise there had been a lot of "bad lending" as well as "bad borrowing".

He said banks should hold interest rates at levels the borrower could afford or suspend them as part of a settlement.

"The worst possible response is to blame others, including banks, the price of milk, cattle, grain etc, and fight. This gets you nowhere," he said.

Mr Clinton defended those who had organised the Positive Farmers' conferences over the last few years. This followed comments that poor advice on off-farm investments had been given to farmers.

Referring to Cork dairy farmer Michael Murphy, who has been active in the planning of the conferences, Mr Clinton said he was someone who had always pushed the boundaries and had worked not only for himself but for other farmers.


"He was man enough to bring me here today to tell you how we can get out of it [financial difficulties]," Mr Clinton said.

"He was criticised for bringing certain people here to speak to you who encouraged you to sweat your assets.

"A lot of you here now are bearing the cost of that but nobody forced anyone to invest in anything outside the farm."

Responding to the criticism, Mr Murphy told the Farming Independent that in any normal situation a person who borrows prudently and invests it will do much better than someone who never borrows at all.

He said this had particularly been the case where there had been an absence of opportunity to invest on the farm.

"Unfortunately, for the first time in 80 years we're in a situation where people who never borrowed at all are doing even better than those who borrowed prudently," Mr Murphy said.

He said this situation was unprecedented and unforeseen.

However, the Corkman pointed out that conference organisers had never encouraged high levels of leverage.

He said speakers at the event had always been consistent in their view that Irish property was overvalued.

"The quality of the advice given was always above average, but right at the moment we've been swamped by a tsunami," Mr Murphy added.

Irish Independent