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Farmer Must Not Be Penalised for Department Delays

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Speaking at an online farmer meeting this morning, IFA President Tim Cullinan said that the Department of Agriculture had failed to prepare the sector for changes in agricultural practices and new measures due to be introduced on Jan 1st.

He said that the Department of Agriculture must commit to giving farmers more time to allow them to adapt to these changes, many of which are challenging.

“Farmers are willing to play their part but producing a Statutory Instrument in November and expecting people to be compliant by January is not realistic, and it’s unfair,” he said

The IFA President was speaking following an IFA online meeting this morning attended by 150 farmers.

Guest speakers were Jenny Deakin, Manager of the Catchment Science and Management Unit, EPA, Eddie Burgess Programme Manager of the Agricultural Catchments Programme and Bernard Harris, Nitrates Division, DAFM.

IFA Environment Chair, Paul O’Brien said that farmers at the meeting had highlighted the confusion around the exact specifications of the new measures.

He said, “Farmers must have sufficient time to plan and to try and understand these measures. At the meeting, farmers were reporting getting updates advising them they needed to examine Ordinance survey maps to determine what actions they need to take. These are hard to access, and the exact marked up maps should be provided to farmers” he said.

IFA National Dairy Chairman, Tom Phelan said, “Dairy farmers are contributing hugely to the rural economy. However, instead of celebrating that a small cohort is trying to demonise the very people who are delivering it. This farmer bashing has to stop,” he said.

“Irish dairy farmers have invested over €79m on Low Emission Slurry Spreading equipment which will yield positive results for water quality. Similarly, sales of protected urea have increased significantly this year. The inevitable lag time between the implementation of improved management practices and water quality response means that water quality improvements may not show definitive results quickly” he said

“The EPA needs to adjust expectations and recognise the time it will take for these improvements to be shown in water quality. I expect them to take this message very seriously, following the feedback they received at this morning’s meeting,” he said.

Concluding the meeting IFA President Tim Cullinan said that maintaining the current Nitrates Derogation was critical.

“Farmers expect our Government to make this happen. Dairy farmers have invested hugely, and they cannot have the carpet pulled from under them. We received the derogation because of our grass-based system, which the best and most environmentally friendly system in the world for producing milk,” he said.

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IFA Raises Payment Concerns with Dept at Charter of Rights Meeting

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Speaking at a Charter of Rights meeting with the Department of Agriculture this week, the IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said it’s absolutely essential that the maximum number of applicants in tranche 19 of TAMS are approved as soon as possible to provide certainty to farmers who are planning to carry out work.

IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins welcomed confirmation that payment of the ANC balancing payment will commence next week.

He stressed the importance of paying the remaining farmers as soon as they meet their stocking density requirements, which the Dept confirmed happens on a weekly basis.  Farmers will be paid as soon as they meet the required stocking density, which in some cases will run to the end of the year.

Michael Biggins also called on the Dept to pay the ANC to farmers who omitted in error to tick the ANC box on their BPS application this year.  “A system where a farmer has to ‘opt out’ rather the ‘opt in’ would ensure there are fewer errors when submitting applications,” he said.

IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe welcomed the payment of the BPS balancing payment which commenced this week.  “The Dept also confirmed the issue around transfer of entitlement, which held up payments of around 1,000 farmers, has been resolved for most at this stage and the remaining ones will be resolved in the next week,” he said.

IFA National Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden has welcomed DAFM facilitation of farmers who made ‘Draft applications’ to BEEP-S scheme and who had operated under the impression they were participating in the scheme by carrying out measures on their farms. IFA had raised this issue directly with the Department of Agriculture and the acceptance of these farmers into the scheme is the right decision.

Regarding the Beef Finishers Payment, Brendan Golden again called for cattle exported for slaughter in the reference period to be paid on from the surplus in the Beef Finishers Payment fund.

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Farming

IFA Launches Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements

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IFA National Farm Business Chair Rose Mary McDonagh and Martin Stapleton, Chairman of the IFA Debt Support Service, have launched a Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA).

IFA Debt Support Service was established following the last recession to provide specific support to farmers in arrears.

The confidential service is comprised of an experienced team of IFA volunteers working with professional support to provide assistance to IFA members in financial difficulty.

Martin Stapleton said IFA has worked with over 500 farmers over the last few years. While the numbers in difficulty are reducing, recent weeks have seen an increase in activity from vulture funds since the COVID-19 Payment Breaks came to an end.

“This guide is available on IFA’s website and will serve as a useful resource for farmers in arrears seeking to protect their family home and farm land,” he said.

A Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) is a debt resolution mechanism outlined in the Personal Insolvency Act, which acts as an insolvency solution for people with unsecured and secured debt.

Rose Mary McDonagh added that a PIA can provide a debtor with protection from their creditors and on completion, a debtor will return to solvency.

At present, the Oireachtas is considering one of two Bills which will reform the area of personal insolvency and amend the current eligibility requirements for a PIA. Rose Mary McDonagh said the definition of relevant debt should be expanded to include debt prior to 2015, and debt secured in or over a debtor’s income reliant/core asset.

The IFA Debt Support Service can be contacted, in confidence, at 1890 924 853.

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EU Must Complete an Impact Assessment of Green Strategies

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Speaking after a meeting of European Farm Leaders (COPA) with EU Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans yesterday, IFA President Tim Cullinan said that the EU must complete a full impact assessment of the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

“I told the Commissioner a full impact assessment is needed to determine how much implementing these strategies will cost,” he said.

“Frans Timmermans has threatened to withdraw the Commission’s own CAP proposal if it doesn’t take more account of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Yet he has no idea how much these strategies will cost or who will pay for them,” he said.

“People are quoting all these targets without any consideration for their impact on output or on production costs of farmers. Farmers cannot be left to carry the can on this,” he said.

“We also need Teagasc to do an assessment of the impact in Ireland. We are currently deep in discussions on the Agrifood 2030 strategy, but again we have a data vacuum,” he said.

“It’s incredible that the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture has examined the impact of ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy on farm incomes, output and trade and neither the EU nor Ireland has,” he said.

“The US report predicts that as a result of the strategy, farm incomes would be reduced by 16%. This is as a consequence of the expected loss of production by 12% across the EU which would not be offset by the 17% increase in market prices.”

“If these measures were implemented, the report predicts a loss in output at an EU level which would cause exports to fall by 20% and imports would increase by 2%. The knock-on effect of these changes in trade is predicted to increase the cost of food by €132 per person in the EU.”

“If these figures are correct, they would be devastating for European farmers. Yet the EU Commission doesn’t know, or won’t tell us, what their assessment of the impact will be,” he said.

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