Low-cost loans for farmers in Budget 2017
Finance Minister Michael Noonan announces a €150m fund to make cash-flow finance available to farmers at reduced interest rates.

In his Budget 2017 speech before the Dail this Tuesday, Minister Noonan said that the EU's exceptional adjustment aid will be drawn down by the Department of Agriculture to provide a low-cost loan system for farmers "with rates below 3% per annum".

"These loans will enable farmers to improve the management of their cash flow and reduce the cost of their short-term borrowings," he said.

This means that the Irish Government will choose measures to make cheaper credit available to farmers when it applies for the €11.1m available to Ireland as part of the €350m aid package announced by the European Commission last July.

€150m loan fund

A total loan fund of €150 million has been put in place to support highly flexible loans for up to six years, for amounts up to €150,000. The loans will be at an interest rate of 2.95% and available through banks to livestock, tillage and horticulture farmers. The low interest agri-cash flow fund will be developed by the Department in partnership with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI). The fund includes the €11m made available under the EU’s exceptional adjustment aid for milk and other livestock farmers, matched by additional funding from the Irish Exchequer.

“I will be speaking to the CEOs of the main banks to urge them to provide this loan product," said Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed. " While I hope that the loans will be available early in the New Year, I would encourage farmers to consider their cash flow and borrowings situation now, and if appropriate, to be prepared to apply for these loans when they become available on a first-come, first-served basis. Loans need to be allocated by next summer to comply with EU reporting requirements.”

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Budget 2017: full coverage

Vigilante animal activists targeting farms could face prison in Australia
The current Australian government has said that if re-elected it would introduce legislation to jail vigilante animal activists targeting farms.

Vigilante animal activists could face up to 12 months in prison for sharing personal information which allows them to target and trespass on farms, if the current Australian government is re-elected.

A joint statement from Australian attorney general Christian Porter and Australian minister for agriculture David Littleproud this week said that the government would introduce a new offence designed specifically to protect farmers and primary producers from the unlawful actions of animal activists.

Malicious

Porter said: "We have seen with Aussie farms the malicious use of personal information, including farmers' names, addresses and workplaces, designed specifically to encourage others to trespass on properties and damage businesses.

"This is not acceptable and the Morrison government will, if re-elected, introduce a new criminal offence specifically designed to protect Australian farmers from the sort of vigilante action we have seen this week.

"Penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment will apply to individuals who use a carriage service, such as the internet, to disclose personal information with the intention that another person would use that information to trespass on agricultural land. The law would also apply to other primary producers such as abattoirs,” he said.

He also said the new laws would include appropriate exemptions for bona-fide journalists and for situations where the information being released shows a law being broken, such as whistleblowing on animal cruelty.

Protection

Minister for agriculture David Littleproud said farming families deserved protection.

"I've been fighting this Aussie Farms attack map for activists for months and this is a great day," he said.

"If you use the personal information of our family farmers to incite trespass then you deserve to go to jail. Farming families grow our food and there are children on these farms.

"Now states must beef up farm trespass laws. If 100 of my mates stormed a house in Sydney we'd expect to be locked up and farmers deserve the same protection.

"The Morrison Government will always protect farmers, whilst ensuring that those who do mistreat their animals face appropriate action."

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French farmer wins court case against Bayer-Monsanto
A court in France has ruled that the manufacturer of a weedkiller was responsible for a farmer's illness.

A court of appeal in Lyon, France found this Thursday that sprays manufacturer Monsanto (now part of the Bayer group) was responsible for the illness of a farmer who inhaled fumes from the Lasso herbicide.

The incident took place in 2004, when tillage farmer Paul François fell ill after opening a container used to handle the weedkiller. He has remained in poor health ever since.

According to French media reports, the court upheld the farmer's claim that product labelling failed to warn him against this risk. Monsanto's lawyers argued that he knew the product was dangerous and may lodge a further appeal.

Damages

The judges referred a decision on compensation to another court. Mr François is seeking over €1m in damages.

The lobby group Phyto-Victimes founded by the farmer to represent people suffering from pesticide contamination has accused Monsanto of using delaying tactics before the three successive courts that heard the case since 2007.

Medical investigations identified chlorobenzene, a solvent used in the weedkiller, as the source of the farmers's poisoning.

Lasso is no longer available to European farmers.

Global Dairy Trade records 0.8% rise
The New Zealand Global Dairy Trade auction recorded another strong increase in butter prices.

The latest Global Dairy Trade auction has concluded with a 0.8% increase, marking the ninth consecutive auction where an increase was recorded.

Butter and cheddar both recorded an increase, with butter prices surging by 5.8% up to US$5,374 (€4,802)/t, while cheddar increased by 3.2% to US$4,248 (€3,796)/t.

Skimmed milk powder (WMP) was also up, with a 1.8% increase to US$2,468 (€2,921)/t.

Whole milk powder (SMP) recorded a drop of 1.3%, to an average price of US$2,405 (€2,149)/t.

Overall, there were 109 winning bidders with 166 bidders taking part. A total of 17,854t was sold.

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