Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Agriculture Schemes

11:40 pm

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I acknowledge Deputy Carthy for allowing me to share his time on Topical Issue matters and I thank the Minister of State for being present. This scheme was brought in for hard-pressed beef finishers in 2019, who suffered continuous bad beef prices over a prolonged period. The conditions of the scheme were extremely bureaucratic for hard-pressed beef finishers. The fact that it was undersubscribed is a sign of how unattractive the scheme was for farmers. For a scheme for beef finishers to be undersubscribed, told its own story. It is now the case that many farmers who applied for the scheme are failing to meet the conditions and the money they received will have to be reimbursed.

These farmers are still under severe financial pressure. Beef finishing is still a very unprofitable business. I ask the Minister of State to bring in a system similar to what we had for the super levy in 2016, when farmers incurred a very large super levy bill but were given a period of years by the Commission to pay back the money. That is the very least that needs to be done in this case. We should have a prolonged period of time to allow these beef finishers to pay back the money in instalments. They just cannot afford to have the money taken from them in any calendar year. We need a sustained period of time to allow these beef finishers pay back this money.

We cannot argue that they failed to meet the criteria of the scheme. The Department will tell us an audit will insist the money be repaid. We can argue that point and, hopefully, the Minister of State will argue it strongly. These beef finishers cannot afford to pay back this money in one instalment. A precedent was set with the superlevy bill where farmers were allowed three years to pay back the money. I would seek an even longer period for these beef finishers who are still under severe financial pressure to repay this money.


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