The Agriculture Minister has denied he has pulled the wool over farmers’ eyes in announcing a €100m Brexit beef fund.
Michael Creed has admitted that some beef farmers are “disappointed” with the terms and conditions around the package which could force farmers to reduce their stock.
EU member states last week agreed to a proposal from the European Commission to make €50m available to Irish beef farmers, this will be matched by national funds to bring it up to €100m.
However, farmers are anxious that the fund will come with a requirement to decrease production.
Speaking to the, Mr Creed said: “It was never going to be €50m with no strings attached.
We have €50m we shouldn’t really look a gift horse in the mouth, there may be a requirement for supply reduction
Mr Creed said any conditions attached to aid package, which has been allocated to make up for a fall in margins of up to 19% in the past year in the beef sector, would be “manageable” for farmers.
However, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said the organisation has written to the minister about the conditions of the scheme.
“We have expressed very strong views at the meetings, opposing any requirements in respect of production reduction or any other conditionality not related to the retrospective Brexit beef price losses,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture has until the end of July to design the terms and conditions of the scheme.
However, a spokesperson for the EU Commission said they must avoid the distortion of competition when distributing the funds.
Mr Healy said the criteria should be finalised without delay and in a manner that will simplify the payments to farmers. The agricultural sector is one of those most exposed to Brexit with almost half of our beef exports going to the UK each year.
Mr Creed said: “We made a submission here to the Commission on the basis of the depressed state of the beef market.
The Commission in their wisdom responded and said we accept that there is a case here under what is called CMO regulations for exceptional aid and they made available €50m but they did so with terms and conditions attached.
“Now people are disappointed with those terms and conditions and the only observation I would make is when they previously intervened to support us in the context of collapsed dairy prices a number of years ago they equally did so with terms and conditions.
“I didn’t look for terms and conditions like this, in fact we made no proposal in that regard to the Commission at all, we just did an analysis of the market and said we would like support for our beef farmers.”
Mr Creed added he would work hard to have the funds paid out as quickly as possible. He said the most important thing is that Irish farmers are supported.
Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue said the minister did not make it clear when first announced that the fund would be contingent on production reduction.
“Farmers were clearly misled pre-election,” he said.