New loan scheme opens for applications
Farmers can borrow up to €3m as part of the new loan scheme.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS) is open for applications from 17 April, with up to €60m available to farmers out of the €300m scheme.

A two-stage application process is in place, and farmers must first apply to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and go through an eligibility check before being supplied with a reference number they can use with one of the approved lenders.

Farmers will also need to complete a business plan for amounts over €250,000 as part of the eligibility process.

It will then be up to AIB, Bank of Ireland or KBC as to whether a farmer meets the bank’s terms and conditions for a loan.

According to the SBCI, loans for primary agriculture must fulfil a certain purpose. These include:

  • The improvement of the overall performance and sustainability of the agricultural holding.
  • The improvement of the natural environment, hygiene conditions or animal welfare standards, provided the investment goes beyond EU standards.
  • The creation and improvement of infrastructure related to the development, adaptation and modernisation of agriculture.
  • The achievement of agri-environmental climate objectives.
  • The restoration of production potential damaged by natural disasters, adverse climatic events, animal diseases, plant pests and the prevention of damages caused by those events.
  • The SBCI notes that the purchase of cattle does not qualify for loans.

    Loan details

    Loan amounts of between €50,000 and €3m are available per applicant.

    Maximum interest rates of 4.5% for loans up to €249,000 and 3.5% for loans greater than €250,000 apply.

    Loans are available on terms ranging from eight to 10 years and can be unsecured on amounts up to €500,000.

    The initial SBCI application can be completed online and the application form can be found by clicking here.

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    Shed and hills on fire as dry conditions heighten risk
    A series of blazes has hit agricultural land and buildings and a status orange warning remains in place.

    Fire brigades from Carrickmacross and Castleblayney attended a hay barn fire on Saturday night in Co Monaghan.

    Meanwhile, crews in counties Dublin and Wicklow battled several gorse fires in the hills along the border between the two counties in the past two days.

    Wicklow Fire Service reported gorse fires at Clogga, near Roundstone on Friday, and at Ballyfolan in the Kippure valley on Saturday.

    Dublin Fire Brigade tackled a number of brush fires along the southern edge of the city, including a gorse wildfire near the Hellfire club on Saturday.

    These incidents follow a large gorse fire in Annagry, Co Donegal on Friday, which destroyed two houses in the area.

    Firefighters have urged members of the public to be vigilant when out in the countryside this Easter weekend as dry, warm weather conditions continue to pose a fire risk. The Department of Agriculture has issued a status orange forest fire warning valid until Tuesday.

    "Most recent fire incidents appear to have taken place on lands associated with turf cutting, but additional risks may also exist on areas commonly used for public recreation," the Department warned.

    Controlled burning of vegetation on agricultural land is not permitted until 31 August.

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    Casey calls for increased CAP budget
    Additional requirements on farmers and inflation should be covered by EU payments, while a Brexit package should include targeted producer support, candidate for MEP Peter Casey has said.

    Independent European election candidate Peter Casey has said he would fight for a larger budget for the next CAP if he is elected MEP next month.

    “The CAP budget must be increased to account for inflation and to compensate our farmers for any additional requirements imposed on them by the newly reformed policy,” Casey said in a statement this Sunday.

    Outgoing MEPs on both the agriculture and budget committees have already passed motions in favour of an increased CAP budget after 2020. The level of funding now depends on contributions agreed by national governments in all EU member states.

    Brexit package

    The Midlands North-West candidate has also called for direct aid in case of a hard Brexit including emergency EU market disturbance supports, targeted direct producer payments, long-term structural adjustment support and the setting-aside of State aid limits.

    “Should we find ourselves in a no-deal Brexit situation, there must be provision for an immediate EU aid package to support our farmers and safeguard the presence of their produce on UK shelves. It is also important that any EU aid takes account for currency devaluations arising from a weakened pound,” Casey said.

    He will be among candidates taking part in the first of a series of husting organised by the IFA on Wednesday in Claremorris, Co Mayo.

    Click here for a list of all other candidates in the European election.

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    Continued rise in non-fatal accidents involving livestock
    Due to the majority of farmers being self-employed or sole traders, there is widespread under-reporting of serious non-fatal accidents on farms.

    There has been a steady rise in the number of non-fatal accidents involving livestock over the last 20 years, according to figures from the annual Teagasc National Farm Survey.

    In 1996, livestock were involved in 23% of all non-fatal accidents.

    The latest figures show livestock now accounts for 43% of all such accidents.

    Rise in accidents

    Minister of State for Trade, Business and Employment Pat Breen said the rise in accidents relating to livestock was largely in line with expansion in the agriculture sector and the significant increases in dairy and beef numbers.

    Responding to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy, the minister said work was continuing with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to encourage safe livestock management.

    Under-reporting

    Figures would indicate there is widespread under-reporting of non-fatal accidents involving livestock.

    On average, 100 non-fatal accidents in the agriculture sector are reported to the HSA annually.

    In comparison, figures from the annual farm survey indicate there are between 2,500 and 3,000 serious non-fatal accidents on farms each year.

    Minister Breen said the sector was predominantly made up of self-employed and sole traders, who “unfortunately do not always report their accidents or injuries to the HSA”.

    It is a requirement for all workplaces, regardless of size, enterprise or sector, to report accidents which result in an absence and the prevention of an employee from performing their normal work for more than three consecutive days.

    Fatal accidents

    When it comes to fatal accidents, livestock account for 16% of all deaths in the agriculture sector.

    In 2018, five people were killed following incidents with livestock.

    Cows and heifers are by far the most dangerous category of livestock.

    They were involved in over half of fatal accidents, which mainly occurred during the calving period.

    Bulls represent 15% of livestock deaths, while horses account for a further 10%.

    Previous HSA inspection campaigns indicate that livestock handling facilities are generally good, with the risks of injury arising when handling facilities are either not used or not used properly.

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