FA President Tim Cullinan said the IFA submission on the €50m scheme for beef finishers proposes a minimum of €100 per finished animal and the payment of funds retrospectively from the date of the Minister’s announcement.
“Beef finishers have incurred significant beef price losses from COVID-19 and other market disturbances this spring, resulting in severe economic impact on their farm enterprises and family farm income,” he said.
IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden said it’s important that the details of the scheme and terms and conditions are farmer friendly, and that there is no conditionality attached to the drawdown of payments.
In a detailed submission to the Department of Agriculture last week, the IFA outlined a number of important points in respect of the scheme, including;
1. The scheme must be for cattle finishers and payment targeted at finishers who incurred the most financial losses.
2. All finished cattle should be covered in the scheme including steers, heifers, young bulls and cows, with the exception of cows with conformation score P and fat score 1 and calves. The Minister has made it clear factory owned and dealer owned cattle will not be covered.
3. The payment rate must be a minimum of €100 per finished animal.
4. Payments should apply to finished animals retrospectively from the announcement date by the Minister in order to prevent factories using the support in an anticompetitive way to manipulate prices on cattle going forward.
5. There should be no restrictive limit on the number of eligible animals per farm which qualify.
6. The terms and conditions of the scheme must be simple and farmer friendly.
7. There can be no conditionality attached to the scheme.
8. The full funding of €50m must be utilised and paid out under the scheme. The terms and conditions must be structured a way to ensure the total funding amount of €50million is paid out to farmers and none of the funds are left unused.
9. The application process should be simple and opened for farmers to apply immediately.
10. Payment should be made to all eligible applicants on or before the end of August, so as to ease the severe financial difficulties on finishing farms and also assist the weanling and store cattle trade in the second half of the year.
11. The payment should apply to all finished cattle sold in the marts, provided those cattle were slaughtered within 30 days of purchase.
The payment should go to the farmer who sold the animal regardless of who purchased the animals in the mart.
12. The payment should apply to finished cattle exported live to Northern Ireland.
13. The payment should apply to finished cattle exported live to international markets.
14. It should be structured in such a way under EU state aids approval under the COVID-19 Temporary State Aid Framework so as to ensure all cattle finishers that apply get paid on all eligible cattle.
15. The scheme should positively accommodate farm partnerships and not in any way discriminate against individual farmer members in partnerships.
16. IFA is available for further consultation with the Department of Agriculture on the scheme.
Meanwhile, the Chair of the Farm Business Committee Rose Mary McDonagh has welcomed the extension of the deadline for payment break applications for those whose income has been impacted by COVID-19.
“The postponement to September 30th from the end of June for first-time applicants for a loan break is much more realistic and practical.”
“In recent meetings with the banks, I have outlined that the impact on income is delayed for some farmers. The pinch is only being felt now, or certainly will be in the next few months.
“Farmers who need this break must make sure they avail of this opportunity and avoid falling into the non-performing loans category,” she said.
“Whilst these payment breaks will assist in the short-term, IFA is urging the incoming Government to urgently legislate for the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme and the second phase of the Future Growth Loan Scheme to support famers.
“Whilst both are open to farmers, it is imperative to establish the terms and conditions, as well as eligibility criteria.
“Farmers are going to have increased costs, as well as credit and cashflow problems due to this crisis.
“These schemes must be low-cost and be open to farmers across all sectors to assist with working capital, investment and credit issues,” Rose Mary McDonagh concluded.