The scheme, jointly funded by the EU Commission and the Irish Government, has been provided to help farmers who have been affected by the Brexit situation over the past three years. The IFA provided detailed research into how Britain’s exit from the EU has cost them €100m since 2016.
IFA president Joe Healy set out six principles for the distribution of the fund to the Irish agriculture minister (see box) and suggested that the scheme should fully reflect these.
The IFA’s six principles for distribution of €100m Beef Fund
• For beef farmers and must be paid to beef farmers. Not for factories, factory feedlots or factory-owned cattle, agents or dealers.
• Targeted to the farmers who incurred the losses and the sectors who need it most in terms of income.
• Farmers who sold prime finished cattle - steers, heifers, young bulls since last Autumn, and suckler farmers.
• Paid out quickly and directly to farmers.
• Finished cattle sold in the marts must be included.
• DAFM has all the data on the AIMs system to enable accurate targeting of the funds.
“The Minister must take feedback on board, make the necessary changes and then move to pay out the money as soon as possible. It is imperative that the scheme is designed in such a way that every single cent of €100m committed by the EU Commission and the Irish Government is paid out to farmers,” he said.
One bone of contention for Irish farmers is the losses suffered after the fund was approved.
“The Minister has said the scheme will cover losses up to 10 May, but prices since then have continued to fall and are now on the floor. The Minister needs to put the Commission on notice that another fund will be needed to cover on-going losses,” said Healy.
He added the IFA has been consistent that funds should go to the farmers who suffered the losses.
“The scheme should be able to exclude factory feedlots, factory-owned cattle and dealers. If these can be excluded, then the per head and overall payment limits, particularly for cattle supplied post-Christmas, should be looked at for genuine beef finishers. Farmers who finished cattle in the reference period made a big investment buying cattle. They need to be able to clear their stocking loans and be back in the market for stores and weanlings in the autumn. The scale of losses experienced by some of these farmers is shocking.
“The exclusion of prime beef animals (steers, heifers and young bulls) from all mixed enterprise farms involving beef and dairy production is wrong, bearing in mind that farmers involved in other commodities or professions are eligible. These animals must be included for payment,” he added.