Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Agriculture Schemes

11:50 pm

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputies for their supplementary points. The fact of the matter is that almost €72 million of the €77 million has gone to beef farmers. Some 19,000 farmers met the scheme's requirements and have exited the scheme because of that. Deputy Cahill is right in saying the scheme was not over-subscribed. It was under-subscribed. A number of beef farmers who were in financial difficulties, as were all beef farmers at that time, checked the scheme's conditions and decided not to participate in it because of the conditionality attached, and that was their right. In terms of the decisions by farmers to join the scheme, lessons have been learned about the scheme's design. If one were designing a scheme from scratch in normal circumstances one would not design like this one, but it was exceptional because the need was exceptional. You would not normally pay in advance under such a scheme where the conditionality came to bear afterwards without some clawback. In an ideal world one would not do that because it can give rise to difficulties. Farmers have a right to make that decision in the full knowledge that, as two-thirds of the farmers have done, if they decide to increase their nitrogen organic output in the future - it is their right to do that - to be fair to everybody in the scheme and to those who decided not to go into it because of the conditions attached, there has to be recoupment. The rules on the interest rate and the recoupment periods are set down. They are EU regulations. Deputy Cahill mentioned the 2020 scheme and he rightly said that was fully Exchequer funded. There is much more flexibility with Exchequer funded schemes. There is not the same flexibility with EU schemes. That means we have to stick to the rules that apply. The flexibility shown in the earlier part of the year was hard fought for. Some 11,000 farmers are able to avail of that flexibility.


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