Brussels draws battle line on farmer access to beef fund

The European Commission's regulations on how it wants the €100 million beef fund to be rolled out to Irish beef farmers have emerged tonight,Thursday,June 6.

The draft guidelines,seen byAgriLand,outline proposals on how the Irish Government should allocate the funds to beef farmers – withspecific criteriaincluded.

The document explains that union aid of a total amount of €50 million shall be available to Ireland to provide "exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef and veal sector".

[The other €50 millionis to be providedby the Irish Government.]

In order for the aid to be distributed to farmers,theremustcompliance with the requests set out below:

The measures taken by Ireland shall be aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector andone or more of the following objectives:
  • Implementation of quality schemes in the beef and veal sector,or projects aimed at promoting quality and value added;
  • Boosting market diversification;
  • Protecting and improving the farmers' environmental,climate and economic sustainability.

Furthermore,the document states: "Ireland shall ensure that if farmers in the beef and veal sector are not the direct beneficiaries of the payments;the economic benefit of the union aid is passed to them in full."

Ireland's expenditure in relation to the payments for the measures referred to shall only be eligible for union aid if those payments have been made by May 31,2020 at the latest.

The document notes that the funding can be "added" to existing EU schemes.

It outlines: "Measures under this regulation may be cumulated with other support financed by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund for rural development."

The document warns that "Ireland shall notify the commission – without delay and no later than July 31 – of the following":
  • A description of the measures to be taken;
  • The criteria used to determine the methods for granting the aid;
  • The intended impact of the measures;
  • The actions taken to check that the intended impact is reached;
  • The actions taken to avoid distortion of competition.

According to the document: "The measures shall be taken on the basis of objective and non-discriminatory criteria provided that the resulting payments do not cause distortion of competition."

IFA response

Responding to the document,Joe Healy,the president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA),has urged the Minister for Agriculture,Food and the Marine,Michael Creed,to "reject all conditionality" linked to the roll-out of the much-anticipated €100 million beef fund.

The farm lobby group is currently carrying out a series of regional meetings aimed at addressing the allocation of the beef fund.

The next meeting will take place at the Tullamore Court Hotel on Monday,June 10;this will be followed by a meeting at Nuremore Hotel,Carrickmacross on Tuesday,June 11;and then at The Abbey Hotel,Roscommon,on Friday,June 13.