Eight food companies funded under Brexit Loan Scheme
Subsidised loans opened last March to help businesses exposed to Brexit have delivered under €4m in finance to food companies so far.

Some 42 food companies have successfully applied for eligibility under the Brexit Loan Scheme and eight of those have subsequently secured funding from a bank since the low-cost finance offer became available on 28 March 2018, ministers have said in reply to parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue.

Food companies represent 12.5% of the 337 applicants declared eligible so far. They have obtained loans totalling €3.6m according to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, or €3.8m according to Minister for Business Heather Humphreys. This represents a quarter of the loans issued so far.

The Brexit Loan Scheme has made €300m available to businesses affected by Brexit at subsidised rates, with 40% of the funding coming from the Department of Agriculture to assist agri-food companies. It is open until the end of March 2020.

Two of the eligible food businesses are in the non-primary agriculture category; 27 in manufacturing; eight in wholesale and retail trade; and five in accommodation and food service.

Alarm

Deputy McConalogue expressed alarm at the fact that only 1% of the €300m loan fund has been approved for food companies, two months away from Brexit. "Minister Creed and his government colleagues must now immediately seek market disturbance supports along with state aid rule changes in order to operationalise grant-aided schemes to support farmers and the agri-food sector. Waiting to close the stable door after the horse has bolted is not a prudent approach," he said.

A separate scheme offering low-cost finance to farmers, the Future Growth Loan Scheme, is due to open by the end of March.

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Minimum €50,000 draw-down for low-cost loans

All rural development schemes underspent in 2018, except GLAS
Farmers received €6m more under GLAS than allocated under last year's budget, but €17m remained unspent across five other schemes.

GLAS was the only farm support scheme under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) catching up on previous years' underspends in 2018, according to the latest figures published by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

GLAS payments totalling €232m were made to 49,919 farmers last year, €6m higher than the annual allocation for the scheme. This follows underspends in the previous two years.

The other main RDP schemes continued to see payments fall short of their budget allocation in 2018:

  • TAMS II grants totalling €66.716m were paid to 17,101 farmers, €3.227m under budget – despite more than doubling compared with 2017.
  • €46.2m went to farmers under BDGP out of an allocation of €49.5m. There are now 24,544 participants in the scheme after 7,255 farmers pulled out over the past four years.
  • Payments worth €15.4m were made to 18,992 farmers and their advisors under for the Knowledge Transfer scheme, leaving €7.6m unspent – though Minister Creed said some payments for year two were pushed into this year. Over 400 farmers withdrew from the scheme last year.
  • Some €18.42m went to sheep farmers under the first year of the Sheep Welfare Scheme out of an allocation of €20m. The allocation was reduced to €18m for year two, out of which €15.14m has been paid with balancing payments due in the next quarter. A total of 1,238 farmers have withdrawn from the scheme since it started in 2017.
  • The Hen Harrier Programme spent just over €2m out of its allocation of €3.5m. There are now 6,294 farmers enrolled in the scheme for its first full year of operation in 2019.
  • Minister Creed supplied the figures in reply to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue.

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    Department moves €54m away from GLAS and KT

    TAMS payments break €100m as nearly 300 farmers get Christmas boost

    IFA calls for BEEP extension
    Applications to the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme should re-open for another week, according to the IFA.

    IFA livestock chair Angus Woods has called on Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to extend the application deadline for the BEEP scheme until 1 March.

    The scheme closed on Friday after a three-week application period, which Woods said was "far too short".

    “Minister Creed needs to ensure that the BEEP scheme is a strong success and he must extend the application period to give every farmer the opportunity to apply,” he added.

    Applications

    The appears to have been a surge in last-minute applications, with the IFA reporting 400,000 cows applied for by 17,000 farmers on Friday evening.

    Earlier in the week, figures obtained by the Irish Farmers Journal showed only 270,000 cows had been registered. Around 500,000 sucklers are estimated to be eligible for the scheme, which offers a €40 payment per animal for weighing records.

    Although he said this was "not enough," Woods encouraged farmers to participate in BEEP.

    Read more

    Everything you need to know about the BEEP scheme

    Mixed reactions to BEEP scheme in Carrigallen

    Editorial: BEEP will put weight behind support for sucklers in next CAP

    Farm finance: concerns over buying and leasing entitlements
    The uncertainty over the future of the CAP budget and the make-up of schemes has meant the Department will not advise farmers when it comes to the leasing of entitlements.

    Concerns were raised at a recent Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) environmental training day as to what advice consultants should be giving to farmers when it comes to buying or leasing entitlements in the shadow of Brexit and the CAP 2020 reform.

    While speculation to date indicates that current schemes will be rolled over into 2020, there is a fear that when the UK leaves the European Union it will mean a reduced budget for CAP. This could potentially lead to a linear cut to the value of entitlements, while the lease value of the entitlements could be set at a fixed fee.

    There were also queries in relation to leasing entitlements in 2019 and who would own these entitlements in the eyes of the Department of Agriculture in 2020.

    Due to the current uncertainty over the makeup of future CAP schemes Lisa Walsh Kemmis from the entitlements section of the Department stated: “The Department can’t currently advise (farmers) on the transfer of entitlements.”

    There was a total of 9,000 transfer of entitlement applications made last year and with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) opening up for applications on Wednesday 20 February, farmers will be making decisions on entitlements in the coming months.