40% of Brexit Loan Scheme monies available to food businesses
At least 40% of the €300m Brexit Loan Scheme will be available to food businesses, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has confirmed.

Speaking on Monday following a meeting with the European Investment Bank Group (EIB) and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to counter-guarantee the €300m loan fund, Minister Creed said the scheme will provide affordable flexible working capital financing to Irish SMEs and mid-caps that are either currently impacted by Brexit or who will be in the coming period.

“It will give those businesses time and space to adapt and to grow into the future.

“Given their unique exposure to the UK market, my Department’s funding ensures that at least 40% of the €300m scheme will be available to food businesses.”

Food businesses will need to focus on competitiveness and innovation in order to continue the growth in Irish agri-food exports, which reached a record €13.5bn in 2017.

“I believe that supporting lower-cost flexible finance is a key Government response to assist the sector in this process.”

In last October’s budget, €14m was secured by the then Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, together with €9m by the Minister for Agriculture, for the €23m for the Brexit Loan Scheme.

The signing of the counter guarantee agreement means that the total amount of €23m can be leveraged to provide €300m to Irish businesses affected by Brexit.

The scheme will be open to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees from March 2018, with the potential to benefit over 5,000 companies.

Impact of Brexit

Meanwhile, three quarters of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) expect to be impacted by Brexit in the next 19 months, a new survey has found.

Launching the results of the survey, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys urged businesses to make a Brexit plan.

The behaviours and attitudes (B&A) survey, which was conducted last autumn, found that while 75% of SMEs expect to be impacted by Brexit over the next 18 months, only 16% of SMEs have a formal Brexit contingency plan.

Minister Humphreys said: “The first step is to identify the lead person in your organisation who can assess potential impacts and scenarios and write your Brexit contingency plan.

“My Department has a number of supports in place to help companies to develop their plans, including the Enterprise Ireland Brexit SME Scorecard and the Be Prepared Grant of up to €5,000.”

The B&A survey asked businesses about how they are responding to Brexit and what financial supports they need in order to respond. The survey found that almost half of the firms were not investing in their businesses.

When asked why, Brexit uncertainty is cited as a key reason. Furthermore, 21% of medium-sized businesses have postponed at least one investment decision in reaction to Brexit.

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Farmer airlifted to hospital following cow attack
The farmer is in hospital following the attack but his condition is not life threatening.

A Cavan man in his 60s was airlifted to hospital following an attack by a cow on a farm in Bailieboro, Co Cavan.

The incident occurred at midday on Tuesday 21 May and the man received “serious injuries”, according to Gardaí.

He is currently in Tallaght University Hospital but his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Gardaí and HSA are also investigating the death of a farmer involving a tractor which occurred in Fermoy last week.

Ireland waiting for terms of €50m Brussels beef fund - Varadkar
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday about the Brexit beef fund.

Ireland is waiting to see the terms and conditions of the €50m in funding from Brussels before it decides how the Brexit beef compensation is rolled out to farmers, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday.

Fifty-million euro in exceptional aid is to be provided to beef farmers given the collapse in beef prices in recent months. Ireland “will have to provide matching funding”, Varadkar said. This brings the total fund to €100m.

He added: “We do not yet have the terms and conditions from the Commission, but as soon as we get them we will be able to develop a scheme and ensure that farmers get the money they need as soon as possible.”

However, speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on Monday this week, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said that it will be up to the beef industry and the Department of Agriculture in Ireland to decide how the scheme is rolled out.

It will be a matter for Minister Creed to sit down with the beef sector to work out how it’s going to be paid

“We didn’t launch the inter-service consultation within the Commission yet, which we will launch this week,” Commissioner Hogan said on Monday. "Therefore, it will be a matter for Minister Creed to sit down with the beef sector to work out how it’s going to be paid.”

Once the implementing regulation has been adopted by the Commission, it then has to be voted on by the member states in a management committee. It will be following this committee approval that the Department of Agriculture can devise the scheme.

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Call to prioritise farm-scale renewable energy
Low interest rates should help farmers and other citizens to produce green energy on their properties, the industry body MREF has said.

Large-scale Government investment in renewable energy needs to prioritise smaller projects including those on farms, the industry body representing suppliers and installers of equipment has said.

"The Government will have to prioritise and prime the actions needed by homes, businesses and farms with grants and tax incentives in the next budget to incentivise the retrofitting homes, installing renewable technologies and helping businesses and farms adapt new practices and processes to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions,” said Pat Smith, chair of the Micro Renewable Energy Federation (MREF).

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton will announce a national plan to tackle climate change in the coming weeks across all Government departments and agencies. Smith said the country's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1m tonnes equivalent carbon dioxide every year for the next 30 years could cost €1bn per year.

Low interest loans

“Government must also ensure that there are easily accessible low-interest loans at sub 3% levels to assist homes, businesses and farms address these issues in a planned and economically sustainable way,” Smith said.

He added that access to grid connections for producers of renewable electricity should be reformed. "For example, ESB Networks currently process a maximum of 30 grid applications a year when it is hundreds of connections that will be required."

Smith also called for free grid connections for micro-scale generators, such as rooftop solar panels, and opportunities for farmers and other building owners to export part of the surplus energy into the national grid.

EU directive

Meanwhile, the Council of European Ministers formally adopted the final set of rules forming part of the Clean Energy Package this Wednesday. These include the already-adopted Renewable Energy Directive, which will force all EU member states to allow citizens to sell part of the renewable energy they produce into the grid within two years.

Read more in our focus on renewable energy in this week's Irish Farmers Journal.

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