European Bank funding must be fully utilised

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan

Copa-Cogeca is calling on all EU member states to activate the new agri funding agri funding opportunities available from the European Investment Bank, courtesy of the measures contained within their respective Rural Development Plans for the period 2015 to 2020.

The body, which represents the umbrella interests of the various farming organisations and agri co-ops throughout Europe, emphasised this point at a meeting held with representatives of the EU’s Latvian Presidency team prior to this week’s agriculture council meeting in Luxembourg.

Cogeca President Mr Christian Pees warned that only seven member states used the funding tools in the last rural development programming period and the situation has changed little for the upcoming programmes.

Speaking in Brussels he said: “We very much welcome the fact that these instruments have been supported by the European Investment Bank as they can help ease the difficult cash flow situation farmers are currently faced with and could help them to step up investment in the sector. Only seven member states used these tools in the period 2007-2013 and little has changed for the next programming period.

“We consequently urge Member States to make full use of them and also to ensure that member states, farmers and agri-cooperatives are given advisory support on how best to use them. Copa and Cogeca also want to be involved in the discussions right from the start.”

These developments follow the recent announcement by EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, concerning the European Investment Bank initiative. During his recent visit to Northern Ireland he pointed put that the new funding measure will allow each region of the EU to draw down €5 in loan form for every €1 placed into a guarantee fund by the competent organisations appointed by Brussels

“In Northern Ireland the relevant body will be Department of Agriculture and Rural Development,” he further explained.

“These soft loans will be paid back at extremely low interest rates over an extended period of time. The monies drawn down by farmers can then be used to fund on-farm development projects, new dairy processing facilities and forestry related projects.”

The Commissioner expects the various regions of the EU to have plans drawn up on how the new funding opportunities can be best utilised. The envisaged time scale for this to happen will encapsulate a period of some weeks – not months.

A series of commission road shows, profiling potential investment opportunities for famers will be held in the very near future. Dublin will be one of the venues included.

Mr Hogan has also confirmed that EU member states can also use national funds to access the Investment Bank loans.

“The system put in place, allowing the money to be accessed, will be extremely flexible,” he said.

“Regions may wish to look at small scale investment plans initially. However, these can be built upon over the coming years.”