Joe Healy seeks advance farm payment to ease income crisis

The leader of the Irish Farmers Association has claimed the farm income crisis is deepening because of falling prices and poor weather.

Joe Healy, president, also warned that the outcome for 2016 will be significantly worse that it was this year.

Mr Healy, who met with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, called on him to act without delay to ease the problems.

His meeting with Mr Hogan in Brussels followed the Teagasc National Farm Survey result published last week.

These revealed that strong cattle prices boosted farm income in 2015, but there was a big fall in milk price.

The preliminary estimates show that family farm income increased by 6% last year, bringing the average figure to €26,526. However, the IFA president warned that a real income crisis on farms is being heightened by negative price pressures across all sectors.

He said the IFA has identified the immediate issues as poor product prices, lack of retail regulation, input costs and European Union trade talks with the Mercosur group of South American countries.

“We need real action immediately here and in Brussels to deliver positive change for farmers,” he said.

Mr Healy said direct payments make up a significant element of income, particularly for drystock and tillage farmers.

“There is an opportunity for the minister to boost income by raising GLAS (Green Low-Carbon Agri- environmental Scheme) entrants to over 50,000 and by bringing forward the Government commitment to increase Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme payments.

“A 70% advance on the basic payment in October would help cashflow,” he said.

The IFA president said it is clear from the Teagasc figures that the abolition of milk quotas resulted in an increase in cow numbers and expansion in milk output.

Combined with reduced input expenditure on concentrate feed, these tempered the significant drop in milk price of 20%.

“However, the poor growth conditions in spring 2016 and continued poor milk means that a 4% income drop in 2015 is an income crisis for dairy farmers in 2016,” he said.

Mr Healy said the increase in tillage income masks the underlying problem in the sector of falling returns for the investment. The inability to re-invest is unsustainable for the sector.

He said the IFA will continue its campaign to abolish tariffs on fertiliser and deliver a price reduction for farmers of a key input.

On the drystock sector, Mr Healy said he has met Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and made a strong case for the re-opening of the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme to applicants this year to support the suckler cow.

He also welcomed the commitment to €25m for a new sheep scheme which is essential to maintain our national ewe flock.


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