Severe rain may cost farmers €100m


THE BAD weather has had a severe impact on farm incomes and could end up costing those working across the sector up to €100 million, the Irish Farmers Association has said.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has, in response, taken the step of asking the European Commission to advance the payout of the Single Farm Payment to October to ease the difficulties facing farmers.

The payment this year is expected to be €1.3 billion, which would be shared among 130,000 farmers – an average of €10,000 per farm.

If the application is successful the Department of Agriculture said 50 per cent of the money available through the scheme would be paid out from October 16th, with the balance to be paid out from December 1st.

A spokeswoman for Mr Coveney said the Minister was “reasonably confident” that his request would be granted.

Met Éireann said this week that record rainfall levels had been recorded across Ireland in June with the exception of some parts of Dublin. Cork was particularly badly hit, with the weather station at Cork airport reporting 228.3mm (9in) had fallen, almost three times the average.

IFA president John Bryan said farmers had been forced to house large numbers of livestock and feed bills were up significantly.

“Across all sectors – dairy, beef, tillage and sheep – the impact on farm incomes over the last five weeks has been a hit of €100 million due to higher feed costs and a loss of output.”

Mr Bryan said the weather had caused major difficulties with silage harvesting. Farmers were facing “a very unusual situation”, with only one-third of the crop having been saved at the beginning of this month.

“Every week where we are not seeing an improvement is adding to the impact on farm incomes. We estimate that extra feed will have to be bought in next winter to supplement silage at a cost of over €60 million.”

Mr Coveney said he was acutely aware of the significance to the rural economy of the single payment. “There are real financial benefits for the rural economy in making these payments six weeks earlier than otherwise provided for under the rules of the scheme.”

The Single Farm Payment was announced in 2003 as part of a substantial reform of the commission’s Common Agriculture Policy. It replaced a number of subsidies farmers received with one payment.

Farmers are obliged to comply with regulations on the environment, food safety, animal welfare, and health and occupational standards in order to get the payment.

The IFA said Mr Coveney “must secure” an advance on the Single Farm Payment and also ensure the full payout of the disadvantaged area scheme in September. “The Minister has an opportunity to improve cashflow for farm families, and provide some certainty in meeting credit deadlines,” Mr Bryan said.