Most dairy farmers in Northern Ireland are eligible for the EU small dairy aid package, for which applications close on May 31st. The form takes a few minutes to complete and there are no crazy criteria to be met with regard to farmer eligibility. So, in truth, those milk producers who are eligible should be beating a path to their computers or post boxes with their relevant business details in hand.
According to the old saying, ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’ Well in the case of the aforementioned EU scheme, we really are talking about the ‘exception that proves the rule.’ So how much money could be on offer? Well if we assume a budget of around £2m and an uptake of 1,000 producers, this works out at an average payment per farm of around £2,000. Given any set of circumstances, this is a figure that should not be sniffed at. It will help pay a few bills. It’s also worth referencing the fact that Holstein UK is offering a support service for dairy farmers wishing to apply for the scheme from its new offices at Dungannon Mart.
For the record, it should be pointed out that the dairy aid package was introduced in light of the catastrophic downturn in market prices suffered by milk producers from the backend of 2015 right through the following calendar year. The fact that the money is on offer now simply reflects the pedantic rate at which the EU Commission’s decision making process can operate at, for the most part. So do local milk producers deserve the money that is now on-offer from Brussels? Of course they do!
The other issue worth reflecting on is the role the EU has played in supporting farm incomes in the wake of cataclysmic weather events or during periods of extreme market downturns over the past four decades. And, of course, the big imponderable now facing farmers is: will London prove to be so like-minded when similar circumstances impact on local agriculture post-Brexit?