Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Agriculture Schemes

11:40 pm

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Heydon, for being in attendance. It is important to recall that the beef exceptional aid measure was put in place to provide farmers with temporary financial aid in response to a prolonged period of depressed beef prices. It was a recognition that farmers were on their knees. The difficulty with the scheme from the outset was that it included a provision that farmers were required to commit to a 5% reduction in bovine livestock manure nitrogen, effectively meaning they were to reduce their stocking rate. When you consider that most of the farmers availing of this scheme were suckler farmers, who are probably the most sustainable farmers and producers of beef in the world, it made little sense. It was something I had a little concern about from the very start.

Notwithstanding that, the scheme was beset with confusion from the very beginning. Almost immediately, we heard reports of farmers waiting up to six weeks to receive figures from the Department, and farm advisers who had figures that were different from the Department's. As a result of those debacles, a deferral or six-month extension to the scheme was secured, rightly, at the height of the third wave of Covid. This was the least that farmers should have expected. However, we now learn that 3,627 farmers within the State are now facing a clawback of €5,227,820. This is money that is now being taken from farmers who received the payment in the first place because of exceptional need.

I welcome the fact that the Minister of State today instructed his officials to apologise for attempting to raid areas of natural constraint, ANC, and targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, payments in a very underhand manner. I appeal to him to put in place measures that we seek exceptional support at a European level to provide a further extension to those farmers who were not able to avail of the first one.


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