Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says the new Agriculture Minister needs to seriously address issues facing farm families in the North West and across the country. Young farmers, beef farmers, dairy and new entrants are all being penalised because of delays to payments, superlevies, extra red tape and falls in market prices.
Speaking during Dáil Statements on Agriculture last week Deputy Scanlon raised the issue of family farmers struggling to make ends meet.
“The agri-food sector is the largest indigenous industry in Ireland, employing over 175,000 people and with food and drink exports reaching nearly €11bn in 2015. However, despite huge improvements in quality and reputation, many family farmers are finding it difficult to pay the bills. Major delays in farm payments are exacerbating an already serious situation. I know many farmers, young and old, who have been approved for AEOS payments but months later are still waiting for the money to come through. This has significant implications for the repayment of bills and loans.
“Young farmers and new entrants are hardest hit – many of them have rented expensive land this year, expecting to get, on entering the new scheme, €310 a hectare only to discover that there is no money in the scheme for 2016 for them and their payment will be approximately €60 a hectare.
“The abolition of milk quotas has also led to large superlevy fines for dairy farmers this year. One farmer contacted me after receiving a levy bill of €83,000. He is not in a position to pay this levy as the money he earns from farming amounts to nowhere near that figure and it is unclear if there are schemes available to help him and I am now calling on Minister Creed to outline what avenues are open to him.
“The beef industry, which is the cornerstone of Irish agriculture, is also suffering. A small number of processors are now effectively dominating the market and imposing rigid specifications and driving down prices. This is having a devastating effect on smaller family farmers who are unable to survive on these radically reduced prices. Farmers in the North West are getting a particularly bad deal because many of the processors are across the border and penalties of around €150 are being imposed on animals that are reared in the Republic but finished in the North. This is an issue that the Minister needs to address as a matter of urgency. Fianna Fáil previously proposed an “island of Ireland” labelling system so that all cattle born and bred in Ireland can be sold as Irish beef and eliminate these unfair disparities that currently exist, and I would urge the Minister to seriously consider this idea”.