Farmers welcome dairy and pig sector aid packages from EU and Department of Agriculture

Farmers and industry leaders have welcomed the Department of Agriculture’s decision to match the EU’s €13.7m direct aid package for the dairy and pig sectors.
Farmers welcome dairy and pig sector aid packages from EU and Department of Agriculture

Pat McCormack, Deputy President and chairperson of the ICMSA dairy committee, said that the revised €27.4m aid package was a welcome injection of funds into an industry that is suffering substantially due to continued low milk prices.

Ireland South MEP, Deirdre Clune said this flat rate payment will help many farmers through the current price volatility they’re facing.

And she welcomed Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney’s commitment to get these payments to farmers before Christmas.

The payment will be made on a flat rate basis with each of the 18,000 dairy farmers in the country receiving approximately €1,350.

There will be an additional €800 top-up for young dairy farmers.

This is part of a series of private storage aid measures agreed with the European Council of Ministers.

Minister Coveney said: “In September, I presented the EU Commissioner and my EU ministerial colleagues with a six-point plan to address the particularly acute situation in the dairy and pig sectors sector.

"I was pleased that the Council took account of Ireland’s requests including an improved private torage aid scheme for both SMP and pigmeat, which will include longer periods for storage as well as the improved aid rates.”

Ireland had also requested storage aid for cheese to be reintroduced, for a 70% advance in the single farm payment, and for increased funding for promotion, along with permission to add national funds to double up the original EU storage aid.

“ The disbursement of this payment is now the final piece of the implementation of this package,” said Minister Coveney.

For the purposes of this payment, young farmers are defined as dairy farmers who have successfully applied for the Young Farmer Scheme.

This top-up payment will be made in early 2016 when the scheme is finalised.

Around €1m of the overall package will be reserved for the pig sector with the mechanism for disbursement of this element to be decided shortly.

ICMSA’s Pat McCormack said the estimated loss in revenues in the dairy industry in this calendar year is around €580m.

He said the storage aids were urgently needed to address farmers’ escalating losses.

“The total funding is only a drop in the ocean in the context of the losses suffered during 2015 and the potential losses in 2016,” said Mr McCormack.

“Quite clearly, this must not be seen as the solution to the problem and an excuse to forget about the dairy industry, most especially, dairy farmers need European policy to do more to stabilize the milk market while the Irish government need to take further steps to minimize farm income volatility in the long term.”

Deirdre Clune welcomed the young farmer top-up payment.

She said the average Irish dairy farmer is 51 years old, and welcomed any measure that would encourage younger farmers into the sector.

She said: “The multiplier effect of farming in Ireland is the creation of local jobs in rural Ireland. This top-up payment will be made in early 2016 when the scheme is finalised.”

Meanwhile, Minister Coveney confirmed that AEOS payments will also begin this week, with €45m due to be paid out before Christmas.

This will bring the total paid out on AEOS for the year to in excess of €75m.

This follows the €5m paid out to remaining REPS farmers at the end of November, bringing the REPS total for 2015 to over €30m.

Both AEOS and REPS were designed to protect wildlife habitats, endangered species of flora and fauna and the rural environment and underpin the production of quality food in a sustainable manner.

As such, they have been important elements in support of farmers to achieve these aims, he said.

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