Action needed on cheap credit for farmers

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Galway East TD Paul Connaughton is this week calling on the Department of Agriculture to take immediate action on drawing down credit from the European Investment Fund which can be used as a magnet to draw in money to the agri-food sector.

‘It is widely recognised at national and European level that investment is required to create the modern agri-food sector that Ireland needs to grow jobs and boost growth. All across Europe, member states have taken action on drawing down money for the agri sector from the European Investment Fund and Ireland must also take action on this.

‘Farmers, machinery developers and others involved in the agri sector could access funding at 3% interest, which is better than the rates available from banks. I will be urging the Minister to put the infrastructure in place to draw down this money. The money can be drawn down and rolled out alongside schemes such as TAMS and would be a very valuable source of credit for farmers seeking to invest.

‘The fund is targeted at investment in storage facilities, promoting energy and water efficiency and developing modern machinery and processing technologies and stimulating rural entrepreneurship. There are many farmers and rural businesses that could benefit from this fund and the quicker such funds become available the better.

‘I became aware of the existence of these funds through discussion with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and his staff in recent weeks and now we have to put in place a mechanism to make these funds available to young farmers, small farmers and producers, as well as rural businesses.

‘The funds are channelled through financial intermediaries that have an expertise in evaluating projects and I believe that in an Irish context, the Credit Union movement can play a pivotal role in rolling out this enhanced credit availability. Local Credit Union Managers know local farmers and business owners and have the expertise and the working relationship to make this work.

‘It is important that the Department of Agriculture finds a way of drawing down the money to help young farmers and productive farmers and time is now of the essence because of the investment currently being planned by farmers as part of the TAMS scheme.

‘I will be meeting Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney on the subject in coming days, asking when he intends modifying the Irish Rural Development Programme to allow farmers to access such credit and what role he envisages the Credit Unions playing in the availability of this new stream of cheap credit for investment in the agri industry.

‘I believe that the proposed cheap credit facility can provide a very valuable source of finance for Irish farmers, which will help ensure that the necessary investment takes place to continue the growth experienced in recent years in Irish food and the agri sector.’