€13.7m crisis funds for Irish farmers

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development (European Commission) ; Fernand Etgen, Minister for Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection (Luxembourg)

Ireland has been allocated €13.7m of the EU’s €420m farm crisis national aid.

Each country’s allocation is based 80% on milk quotas, to reflect the significant drop in ilk prices paid to farmers across the EU over the past year.

The remaining 20 % is based on assisting farmers hit by the fall in pigmeat prices, the Russian ban on EU foods, and continental summer drought effects.

The European Commission has given governments maximum flexibility to distribute the financial aid to the farmers most in need in their countries.

Welcoming Ireland’s €13.7m of direct aid, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said, “We will now consider with our stakeholders how best to utilise these funds to support Irish farmers.”

However, ICMSA said it was “miniscule”.

The aid details were announced by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan this week, following his return to work after recent illness and hospitalisation.

Confirming the aid is financed by farmers’ 2014-15 milk superlevy fines, Hogan said, “We will not have the benefit anymore of the proceeds of the superlevy to fund any similar comprehensive support packages.”

He disappointed dairy farmers by rejecting their calls to raise the intervention price for butter and skimmed milk powder (SMP) from its current milk price equivalent of 21.7 cents per litre.

About 10 member states, led by France but excluding Germany, are believed to have sought a dairy intervention price increase.

Mr Hogan said it is not the right response to a short-term market imbalance, and would send a wrong signal to the marketplace.

Also, it would take 18 months for the necessary legislation to go through the European Council and Parliament.

Instead, Mr Hogan announced an enhanced Private Storage Aid (PSA) system for SMP and cheese.

In this system, the Commission helps cover the cost of storage for a limited period of product which is then allowed return to the market.

He increased the PSA aid rate for SMP more than 100% and fixed the storage period for a year.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the improved PSA for SMP “will have a real impact on the market”.

A new EU PSA scheme for cheese will take in up to 100,000 tonnes, divided according to member states’ respective cheese productions.

For pig farmers, a new PSA scheme will be extended to include fresh lard.

Giving extra details of the 70% early advance, from October 16, of annual direct payments to farmers, Mr Hogan said administrative controls to free the money for distribution can be completed without the need to complete the usual on-the-spot checks for farmer compliance.

He said this is proposed as an absolutely exceptional measure, bearing in mind the possible financial risk to the EU.

Mr Hogan revealed that about €30m will be devoted to ensuring that EU milk is made available for the nutritional needs of refugees, in particular those in difficult conditions in countries neighbouring the EU.

And he said, “I am prepared to consider allowing member states to provide complementary national aid to increase support to the measures taken under the targeted aid envelopes.”


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