Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Government to make use of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) to provide supports to farmers before time runs out and the money is returned to Europe.
The deadline for use of the BAR, a fund established to support sectors affected by Brexit, is the end of this year. Unused BAR funds, currently around €150m, will then be returned to the EU and added to another fund, REPower EU.
Teachta Kerrane has repeatedly requested that the BAR be utilised to provide much-needed supports to farmers, such as those in the sheep and tillage sectors.
Teachta Kerrane said:
“Time and time again I have asked Minister McConalogue to look at utilising the BAR to provide crucial supports to the sheep sector and tillage sector.
‘“I recognise that both sectors saw some measures included in last week’s Budget, and that is welcome. However, given the real crisis these sectors are in, it is incomprehensible that this money would not be spent to support them.
“The reality is that the €8 increase announced for the Sheep Improvement Scheme and €8m for tillage farmers won’t come close to addressing the crises these sectors have faced this year.
“Time is running out to make use of BAR funding. That is €150 million that could be used to provide supports and yet we are looking at a situation where this money will be returned to the EU at the end of this year unspent.
“I have asked the Minister to look at making use of the BAR and he has advised repeatedly that his Department cannot find a link to demonstrate the impact of Brexit on the sheep sector.
“Yet, a reply to a parliamentary question I submitted has acknowledged that exports to Britain account for 16% of the Irish sheep meat market. His reply doesn’t appear to take into account the impact the new trade deal Britain has with New Zealand has on exports of Irish sheep meat.
“I am at a loss as to how €1.5 million of this fund can go to Bord Bia to promote organics and how a link to Brexit was found for that, but it cannot be found to support farmers on the ground who are really struggling. That to me is unforgivable.
“I am again calling on Minister McConalogue to get his Department officials around a table and look creatively at this fund to find a way it can be used to support farmers here. At the very least, he can make the case under this fund and at least try for farmers.”