€500 million EU Agri fund an important 'first' step - Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Matt Carthy TD, has welcomed indications from EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski that the Commission are set to deploy the €500 million crisis reserve, but warned that these funds must be delivered both rapidly and to those farmers most in need.
He also cautioned that the release of this fund will mark just a first step, and that clarity as to medium-term plans of both the Irish government and European Commission are urgently needed.
He commented that the current challenges facing farmers in Ireland, in relation to both the prices and availability of inputs - while resulting from a confluence of factors - were being compounded by ‘a lack of policy coherence and resourcing.’
Teachta Carthy said:
“Sinn Féin have, for several weeks, sought the deployment of the EU €500 million crisis funding as an important first step to deliver immediate support to farmers who have been bearing the brunt of spiralling input costs for months.
“But farmers, as well as those in the broader agri-food supply chain who depend on them, urgently need clarity today as to what portion of the fund Ireland is set to receive and how it is to be delivered to those who need the support most.
“In recent weeks, farmers organisations have made calls for €90 million in funding for the Irish pig sector alone. That gives some indication as to the scale of intervention required across the European Union, and what we can expect in terms of other countries laying a claim to the crisis funding.
“With that in mind, the response of the Minister for Agriculture has lacked urgency – there are actions that he could take that would go some ways towards to alleviating the crisis situation.
“The Minister needs to immediately return to the matter of excise on agri-diesel, working with colleagues in government to deliver a sizable reduction – including in the carbon tax component. He should further ensure that a promised review as to the status of farm contractors with regard to the carbon tax be carried out as a matter of urgency.
“Minister McConalogue should also engage with his EU counterparts to secure reductions in anti-dumping tariffs on fertiliser and to ensure that the discussion on wider supports starts today.
“The Commission has show flexibility on the planting of fallow land in 2022. This is to be welcomed as we seek to maximise our own grain yield – but serious questions remain as to the potential impact this may have considering that planting season has already commenced.
“How is the Irish government going to ensure that adequate farm advisors and even seed is available? What plans are being put in place to marshal the necessary manpower to harvest, dry and store these crops in the months ahead?
“What is required is leadership and urgent action. The Minister for Agriculture must support our farming families to feed consumers over the coming seasons.
“At the outset of the invasion of Ukraine, Sinn Féin called on the European Commission to respond with a package for farmers’ negatively affected by sanctions on Russia. OIt is disappointing that weeks since then, the response in both Dublin and Brussels remains un-pointed, without direction, and lacking entirely in detail
“The European Commissioner has made clear that beyond the crisis reserve and planting of fallow land, they believe the response to these ongoing crises rests in State-aid.
“The Minister for Agriculture should be equally clear that the Common Agriculture Policy, undermined by a poor EU budget, has left both the European Union and Member States in a difficult position and potentially facing a food security emergency. As such, he must stress that the response must be EU led and consist of funding mechanisms that deliver for farmers and consumers.
“Ireland is also uniquely placed in that we have access to €1 billion through the Brexit Adjustment Reserve which can be made readily available to farmers impacted by the withdrawal of Britain from the EU.
“To-date, farmers have received not a single cent in such funding, despite €100 million being allocated to food processors.
“This week, I wrote to the Minister for Agriculture requesting the immediate deployment of this funding to support farming families across the pig, beef, seed potato and horticultural sectors.
“Funding and taxation mechanisms exist both at home and in Brussels that would significantly alleviate the burden being borne by farmers. The missing piece of this puzzle is a government willing to deliver for them.”