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Sunday 16 December 2018

Farmers hit by the drought to get EU pay early

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Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The European Commission has confirmed farmers will be able to receive EU farm payments in advance and will be granted more flexibility to use land that would normally not be used for production, in order to feed their animals.

It comes as an ongoing and prolonged drought in several EU countries is having a significant impact on the production of arable crops, as well as animal feed which could also have an impact on animal welfare.

In addition, the reduction in the level of animal feed is having a particular impact on the income of livestock farmers, as this will increase their input costs if there is a shortage of fodder later in the year.

Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said he had been in contact with a number of ministers from affected countries to discuss the situation and get up-to-date assessments of its impact. "The commission, as always, is ready to support farmers affected by drought using a number of instruments, including higher advance payments, derogations from greening requirements and state aid," he said.

Farmers will now be able to receive up to 70pc of their direct payment and 85pc of payments under rural development already as of mid-October 2018 instead of waiting until December to improve their cash flow situation.

Meanwhile, Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy said that Minister Michael Creed needed to deliver real measures to help farmers on the ground.

"Today's announcement by EU Commissioner Phil Hogan is welcome, however the benefit of this will not be seen until October 16," he said.

"While the derogation for the production of animal feed on fallow land is also welcome, important flexibilities are required under the Agri-Environment scheme GLAS which would be of much greater assistance.

"IFA estimates that up to 100,000 hectares of additional land could be brought into fodder production by granting flexibilities for catch crops, fallow land and low-input grassland under GLAS. The Government must also explore the additional flexibility available under State aid rules to support farmers at this extremely difficult time," he said.

Irish Independent

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