Farm groups have welcomed the European Commission’s decision to agree to an early roll out in October of 50% of the 2012 Single Farm Payment, following talks with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
While Irish farmers had hoped Brussels might agree to calls for a 70% roll out, they have welcomed the move to pay out €600m in October, with another 50% to follow in December.
IFA president John Bryan welcomed the EU clearance for the advance payment, which he said would be a major boost to cash flow in a dreadful year weather-wise.
"An advance payment of 50% will help ease cashflow problems on farms, which are now very difficult because of the significantly higher costs and lower prices."
He said payments under all schemes must be made on time. He said farmers are disappointed that a 70% advance was not secured and that Mr Coveney must insist that the case is re-examined.
ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said there would be "sighs of relief from farmers across the country".
Mr Coveney said he was very pleased at the level of support evident for the move. He said those whose applications are confirmed fully clear will be paid from Oct 16, with balancing payments being made with effect from Dec 1.
The minister explained that his approach to the agriculture commissioner had been prompted by the very wet weather experienced throughout June and July, which has led to severe difficulties for farmers, particularly in silage-making and which has also required the housing of animals, with the attendant additional costs of buying-in feed, together with the ongoing cash-flow difficulties affecting farming and the wider community.
Mr Coveney said: "Being acutely aware of the significance to farmers and the wider rural economy of the Single Payment, and mindful of the ongoing financial crisis, I have been particularly concerned at the difficulties caused for farmers by the adverse weather of the past seven weeks.
"The benefit in making these payments six weeks earlier than otherwise provided for under the existing rules of the scheme will be particularly beneficial at this time."
Mr Coveney argued Ireland’s case for an advance payment of 70% at a recent bilateral meeting with agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos. Application was made to the commission for a 70% advance payment, but the commission explained it was not possible to make that level of funding across the EU available.
Mr Coveney said: "Despite not being able to get a 70% advance it is positive news that 50% will be granted. The commissioner had committed to looking at a 70% advance, but was unable to grant it due to budget constraints."
The advance payment came about after a meeting in Brussels yesterday of the commission’s direct payments management committee. The move received unanimous support from all member states.
ICMSA president John Comer said the weather over the last two months had now cost Irish milk suppliers €100m and that those costs were likely to be ongoing until turnout next spring.
Mr Comer said in light of the terrible conditions on the ground, Mr Coveney must renew his efforts to secure a 70% advance and he must also turn his attention to the question of persistent delays in other payments due and the application of inspections and regulations.
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