With milk prices still at rock bottom, dairy farmer incomes in 2016 have been absolutely decimated and it is therefore essential that the €11m package agreed for Ireland at the Farm Council meeting on 18th July is paid out as a direct payment to dairy farmers before the end of the year, according to Mr. John Comer, President of ICMSA.
Ireland, Mr. Comer said, has received an €11m aid package and it is absolutely essential that the Irish government 100% match the EU funding available. On the basis that the €150m Voluntary Supply Reduction Scheme budget is adequate to meet demand in that scheme, the €22m package would translate into a dairy crisis payment of approximately €1,200 per dairy farmer which would provide a level of support to dairy farmers during an extremely difficult period and would recognise the current difficulties the sector is facing. Unlike other sectors, Mr. Comer said, there are no coupled support schemes in place for dairy cows with the BDGP in place for suckler cows and now a new sheep payment being introduced. In terms of direct support, dairy farmers have lost out heavily since the Budget cuts in 2009 and this needs to be addressed going forward perhaps in the form of a coupled payment for dairy cows similar to that available for suckler cows. However, in the short term, the funding available from the dairy crisis package should be directed to dairy farmers and the Minister should consult with the Dairy Forum on this matter.
It is essential that this funding is paid directly to the dairy farmer and in this regard, the draft regulations suggest that funding will be dependent on meeting certain requirements on dairy market stabilisation and ICMSA believes that these conditions must be flexible, take account of the needs of Irish dairy farmers and it must ensure that all dairy farmers are in a position to qualify for this aid. The funding must not been used to establish low interest loans as this would effectively mean using farmer funding to subsidise the banks and what is required in relation to the banks is that the Government flex their muscles to force the banks to give competitive rates. We cannot and should not use funding for farmers to subsidise banks that are now again making profits in the billions again.
ICMSA, Mr. Comer concluded, is very clear that this funding was provided to deal with the dairy crisis and it should be paid as a direct payment fully matched by our Government and provide each dairy farmer with a flat rate payment of approximately €1,200 per dairy farmer.
Ends 29 July 2016
John Comer (087) 2057846.