The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), is calling on Minister Creed to act quickly and decisively to literally “leave no stone unturned to find money for our suckler and sheep farmers amid the Covid-19 crisis”. Having read EU Commissioner Wojciechowski’s updated open letter to his twenty-seven Agricultural Ministers, the commissioner has given Member States huge flexibility and opportunities to make the fullest possible use of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) framework of the CAP.

The President of the INHFA Colm O’Donnell stated “that our Minister and his staff must find every available euro in the whole of the RDP, including unspent allocations on existing schemes, together with amounts of money reserved for ongoing calls for applications not yet finalised by extending their scope and re-allocating funds between measures.

All of these options now have been given the green light by Commissioner Wojciechowski who has pledged the services of the EU Commission to grant swift approval of any RDP amendments proposed by Member States in response to the coronavirus crisis “.

The INHFA leader continued by saying that “we have proposed to both Minister Creed and to Commissioner Wojciechowski that the best and most efficient method of delivering support to our primary producers of sucklers and sheep is by allocating an additional €100 million euros to the 2020 Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme”. “This particular Pillar 2 scheme”, stressed O’Donnell “is designed to compensate farmers for costs incurred, income foregone and extra transaction costs associated with farming systems such as sucklers and sheep.

With the flexibilities now offered by the EU Commission, this additional funding could be paid out as an advance ANC payment to help keep cash strapped primary producers’ heads over water for the next couple of months.”

Concluding, the INHFA President reiterated his call for the Minister to use the flexibilities now at his disposal, keep things as simple as possible and get supports out to our suckler cow and sheep sectors as quickly as possible.