Dairy Forum delivers €1,350 top up for farmers before Christmas

Fine Gael TD for Cork North West, Michael Creed has said that the Dairy Forum has led to the implementation by Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney of a top up package of €1,350 for dairy farmers in Cork.
“When I put forward the suggestion of the Dairy Forum it was my hope that its work would lead to positive news for dairy farmers. The announcement of the €1,350 top of for dairy farmers is a great success for the Dairy Forum and testament of its merit.
“This direct aid package of €27.4 million is made up of €13.7 million of EU funding and a further €13.7 million in matching national funding.
“The payment will be made on a flat rate basis and means that dairy farmers in Cork and across the country will each receive approximately €1,350. This top-up funding is to be made to farmers before Christmas and I know it will be an important boost to them, particularly as many are experiencing cash-flow problems.
“There will be an additional €800 top-up for young dairy farmers in Cork, which will be made in early 2016.
“This has been a very difficult year for the dairy sector in Ireland and I know that farmers here in Cork have been feeling the effects of the market downturn. Speaking to farmers I know that cash-flow has been a particular problem.
“The additional funding announced today for farmers comes on top of the 70% advance payment also agreed as part of this package and which has now delivered over €1 billion to farmers in the last two months.
“There is no doubt but that these are difficult times for dairy farmers in Cork but this Government is committed to continuing to work for them. Fine Gael has a long term plan to keep the recovery going and part of this plan is to ensure we support and assist our farmers, who are the backbone of this country and our economy.”

FAIRNESS AT LAST FOR HEN HARRIER DESIGNATED FARMERS

Cork North West TD Michael Creed has welcomed the announcement that Farmer’s whose lands have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of the Hen Harrier, are to be accommodated under the Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme (LLAES) Commenting on the new scheme Deputy Creed said;

“I have been working with farmers in Cork North West, Kerry Limerick and across the Country who have been in limbo because of the designation of their lands and the resulting restriction on farming activities on these lands. It is only right and just that these farmers receive some financial compensation for their contribution to preservation and indeed to compensate for lost farming activity on their land.

“This scheme will be included in an amendment to Ireland’s RDP which is to be lodged with the EU Commission in the spring. Consultation is currently underway and I would encourage all those affected by this issue to participate. Farmers working in Hen Harrier areas are already eligible for GLAS and could earn up to €7,000 per annum through a combination of GLAS and GLAS plus.

“I would like to pay tribute to all those who campaigned vigorously on this issue and indeed my colleague the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney for being pro-active on this issue”.

Simon Coveney TD  Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed TD & Michael Cronin IFDL in Rockchapel
Simon Coveney TD Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed TD & Michael Cronin IFDL in Rockchapel

CREED WELCOMES SECOND APPLICATION OPPORTUNITY FOR FARMERS TO ENTER GLAS

Cork North West TD, Michael Creed has this morning welcomed the announcement by Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney TD, that a second round of GLAS applications will be invited from the autumn. Commenting on the announcement Deputy Creed said:

“It is anticipated that 25,000 farmers will have registered for the first round of applications and a further 10,000 will be welcomed from autumn until the end of the year with view to commencing on the scheme on January 1st 2016.

“The second application process will give farmers in Cork North West who have not yet subscribed to the scheme to apply. The Minister confirmed that there has been interest from all farmers, including those with the “priority environmental assets (PEAs) identified by his Department. GLAS is structured along three distinct tiers, with priority entry to farmers in Tier 1 (that is those with PEAs such as farmland bird habitats, commonages and high status water areas), followed by Tier 2, with Tier 3 farmers being allocated places last.

“The period for formal submission of applications is expected to open very shortly. I would advise all farmers applying to the scheme to ensure that they have reviewed in detail their applications, as once it has been submitted by their advisors, no amendments will be accepted. This is why the Department has provided a long lead-period for the preparation of applications on-line. The Minister also announced that he is giving additional time to Commonage GLAS planners to get their commonage plans completed and submitted.

“There will also be a new extended date for the completion of the commonage plans, this date is now 31st August. Farmers with commonage will still have to make sure they lodge their individual GLAS applications by the 22nd May.”

EU COMMISSION TO INTERVENE ON STATES FAILURE TO ACT ON HEN HARRIER ISSUE

Cork North West TD Michael Creed has today warned that the EU Commission are about to intervene to ensure that farmers whose lands have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of the Hen Harrier, are compensated for their loss of income due to the prohibition of farming activity in these areas. Commenting on the possible intervention of the EU in the matter Deputy Creed said:

“This issue has been long fingered for some time by successive Ministers who have failed to devise a suitable compensatory measure for farmers in Hen Harrier protected areas. I have been working closely with the Irish Farmers with Designated Land groups and individual farmers in my Constituency who have been working in a vacuum for some time on this issue.

“Sources in the EU Commission have now brought to my attention that the Commission is about to compel the State to finally act on this matter. It is regrettable our Government have not been able to act on this matter to this point and that the EU have had to intervene to ensure farmers are compensated.

“I am pleased that farmers whose land has been deemed unworkable because of the designation will finally receive compensation for their sacrifice to the conservation of the Hen Harrier. I would now call on the Government to be proactive and engage with the Commission and farmers positively to ensure a fair package for both the farmers and the taxpayer”

CREED WELCOMES CONSENSUS LED SOLUTION TO BEEF CRISIS

Establishment of Producer organisations key to safeguarding farmers interests

Cork North West TD Michael Creed has welcomed the agreement reached early Thursday morning at the round table Beef Forum. Commenting on the agreement Deputy Creed said:

“I am pleased that engagement and dialogue has led to an agreement which hopefully will provide some relief for beef producers who have suffered the brunt of deflated beef prices throughout Europe. I am particularly pleased for beef producers in my constituency who I have been meeting with and who have despaired at the market conditions over the past year. I hope that this agreement and the commitment to further engagement in January will lead to a sustainable future for the industry for all stakeholders in the industry and specifically the primary producers.

“I would urge beef producers to hasten the development of producer organisations in order to give farmers a solid standing in future engagement with other stakeholders. An organised dynamic network of producer organisations can only help to provide farmers with a stronger hand in future negotiations

“The key threads of the agreement include:
• Weight Specifications – no price penalties based on weight up to 31st December 2015.
• Age Specifications – engagement with the retail sector and third country markets with the objective of increasing age specification for premium beef from 30 to 36 months.
• Quality Payment System (QPS) – no dual base pricing for breed, age or weight
• Quality Payment System – Review of current QPS by the middle of 2015
• Quality Assurance – processors to provide a price incentive for all steers and heifers from Quality Assured farms with effect from 1st January 2015
• Farm movements – clarification and harmonisation of the system for counting the number of farm residencies for determining eligibility for the QPS in-spec bonus. Any barriers to movement through marts will also be examined.
• Price Transparency – new market index to be developed based on the different beef categories on the main markets served by Irish product
• Price Transparency – harmonised remittance document for farmers showing base price, bonuses and any other factors contributing to final price.

“I’d like to congratulate Minister Coveney for his role in brokering this agreement, his officials in the Department of Agriculture as well as farm leaders, and processors for positively engaging in this process which hopefully will reap rewards for the sector from this point on”.

CREED CALLS FOR URGENT RESOLUTION OF HEN HARRIER ISSUE

Cork North West TD Michael Creed, has urged the incoming Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries T.D. to urgently engage with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney T.D. in order to finally seek a resolution to the difficulties being faced by farmers in areas designated as Special Protection Area’s for the preservation of the hen harrier. Commenting on the matter, Deputy Creed said:

“Farm families throughout the Country – through no fault of their own, are being denied the opportunity to earn a livelihood from their land due to the State’s obligation to meet habitat preservation directives from the EU. These families have been in limbo since the suspension of a compensation scheme in 2010”.

“The appointment of a new Minister provides the perfect opportunity to add new momentum for finding a suitable resolution for the farm families involved. It is important that Minister Humphries engages with this issue as a matter of priority”.

“Suggestions that this matter can be resolved in the context of GLAS (green, low carbon agri-environment scheme) fall short of what is required. The restrictions on farmers in these SPA’s cannot be compared to the obligations on farmers in the rest of the Country to meet the terms of GLAS. Furthermore the payment available under GLAS is not adequate to compensate farmers in SPA’s for the curtailment of their activities and earning capabilities”.

CREED RAISES AGRICULTURE, ALCOHOL & SINGLE PARENT TAX CREDIT DURING FINANCE BILL DEBATE

Watch the debate: http://media.heanet.ie/oireachtas/asx.php?Channel=Dail&Date=20131107&StartTime=05:38:26.000&Duration=01:00:00.000

The debate on the annual Finance Bill is an opportune time to reflect on the state of the economy and how it has progressed or otherwise over the preceding 12 months. A statistic that should bring some comfort, albeit not sufficient comfort for those who are unemployed, is that 30,000 more people are at work today than on the same day last year. The scale of the task this Government faces is put into context by the fact that between 2008 and 2010 more than 200,000 people lost their jobs. We are slowly making progress. Some of the debates in this Chamber on this and other matters are too sterile and predictable. We need to acknowledge what has been achieved and face up to the scale of the problem. In regard to the predictable claptrap about the sixth or seventh austerity budget, the budgets are austere because it is difficult to return to a situation where we are cutting our cloth according to our measure. The Government has made some progress in satisfying the markets, which is necessary before it begins to filter down. One of the other significant issues, apart from the number of people back at work compared to last year, is that the markets are showing some confidence in us now. If we had been able to go to the markets when the Government came into office, the cost of borrowing would have been approximately 15%; it is now approximately 5% or less. That is significant progress and, although it does not mean a lot to people out there still searching for jobs, it is a necessary staging post on the road to recovery. The Government is travelling, although perhaps not fast enough, along the road to recovery to meet the needs of many thousands who are still unemployed. It is making progress.

I caution the Government against raising the bar of expectation on the basis of leaving the bailout in December of this year. That does not mean a lot to the individual who finds himself unemployed because we will still not have an enormous amount of money. As we see the troika members booking their flights leaving Ireland, which is welcome, and we regain our economic sovereignty, we will continue to be in a delicate position for many years to come as we struggle to generate wealth and distribute wealth in a fair and equitable way. I agree with Deputy McHugh. The opportunity is now to plan for a balanced, regionally sustainable recovery. That is not always evident. The overwhelming objective of Government is to get the economy right along broad principles but it cannot lose sight of the objective of having it regionally sustainable.

I welcome the provision in the budget to introduce a new suckler cow welfare scheme or something of a similar nature. I would like the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to consider a commission of inquiry into the beef industry. It is profitable for factories, retailers and everyone in the industry except the farmer. It is a multibillion euro industry earning us enormous sums of money in exports, with over 100,000 people involved at farm gate level. However, very few of them make a living and most suckler cow farmers die in debt. We must look at a way to ensure the farmers who are the foundation of the industry can make a reasonable living. I welcome the Minister’s initiative but a more fundamental appraisal of the industry is necessary.

The Minister for Finance is not known for his timidity but the Government measures on alcohol are timid in the extreme. We have a serious societal problem with alcohol abuse. The stock response is to raise excise duties but we fail to grasp the real problem, which is the imbalance between consumption on licensed premises and through off-licences. That is the real societal problem and we wake up on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings hearing on the radio about someone being stabbed in a domestic setting because of excess alcohol, perhaps fuelled also by drugs. We must ensure that we encourage alcohol consumption on licensed premises rather than through off-licences. In the former, there is peer group interaction, supervision and intergenerational solidarity. There is a real weakness. I have heard reference to the idea that minimum pricing is not possible because of some issue in Scotland and a review of Scottish legislation. We are a sovereign nation and the only law that has been interpreted in respect of this area upholds the right of states to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. The Minister needs to do so.

The single parent tax credit is the issue on which I have received most representations. We must acknowledge that while some parents may wish to abscond from their parental duties, the majority of people take their parenting responsibilities exceptionally seriously even if their marital circumstances have broken down. It is unfortunate that the Government falls into the response of assuming that most men walk away from parental duties; they do not. The Minister has sent a signal that he will deal with this in some way by apportioning the tax credit to one party or the other where either party may not have a taxable income. Where there is a court agreed apportionment of custody in light of financial circumstances, the credit should also be apportioned on that basis. If there is a 50-50 agreement on parenting, the credit should be apportioned 50-50. It is a significant asset, amounting to approximately €1,600 a year. Hitting someone unilaterally overnight by taking it away is a financial blow that many cannot survive. I welcome the signal sent by the Minister for Finance of some movement but more needs to be done to achieve equity.