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Farmers facing 'financial wipe out' to wait and see after government makes aid plea to Brussels

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said he has appealed to colleagues in other member states.

Image: IFA/Twitter

THE GOVERNMENT HAS told the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan and other member states that it wants to deploy “exceptional measures” to support farm families who’ve suffered huge drops in their incomes.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed petitioned the Council of Agriculture Ministers on this matter last month, and officials at his department have followed up with a detailed submission that is currently under consideration by European Commission officials. 

It comes after a sustained campaign from the Irish Farming Association for the government to intervene to help beef farmers that are already feeling the pain from Brexit, with an estimated loss of €100 million since last year. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, an IFA spokesperson said that now it’s all about “delivery” and that “farmers are waiting to see what materialises as they struggle to deal with huge Brexit-related losses”.

‘Stressed the need’

In a response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan, Creed said that he had already held a number of discussions with EU Commissioner Hogan on the potential impact Brexit would have on farming here.

“I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on agrifood,” he said. 

This included the provision of exceptional aid under the Common Agricultural Policy’s Single Common Market Organisation regulation. 

“It is important to acknowledge that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year in 2018 due to weather conditions,” he said.

Creed added that there’d been a “prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices” since last autumn, citing the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit as a main cause.

In light of the on-going depressed market prices, I have, in discussions with Commissioner Hogan and my EU counterparts, said that I believe that the deployment of exceptional measures under the CMO Regulation, to provide targeted aid to farm families who have suffered a sustained reduction in returns from the market, is now required.

“I made an intervention to this effect at the April meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, and my officials have followed this up with a detailed submission, which is under consideration by Commission officials.”

Fury from farmers

As highlighted, farmers have been emphasising their ire at the government for some time.

At the beginning of this month, the Taoiseach and other ministers were met with protests from farmers and others before holding a Cabinet meeting in Cork city.

A prize Aengus bull and farming machinery was brought outside Cork City Hall, where the Cabinet was due to meet.

In this video captured by RTÉ reporter Paul Cunningham, a protester can be heard asking the Taoiseach: “Where’s the beef ya vegan ya?”

Speaking at the protest, IFA President Joe Healy said there is a “severe income crisis in beef” and some farmers had faced a “financial wipe-out” in recent months. 

“Farmers are angry and fed up to the back teeth of empty promises from politicians,” he said. “They keep promising – ‘Oh! we will look after you on Brexit’.”

The IFA spokesperson added: “Last week, Minister Creed confirmed that the Department had recognised and accepted the €100m analysis of the losses by IFA when making their case to Government and Brussels. Minister Creed also confirmed that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has intervened directly with EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.

While both of these statements are significant in terms of securing an aid package, it it is critically important that no stone is left unturned. From our perspective, it’s all about delivery. 

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Sean Murray

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