MEP welcomes latest financial initiative

MEP Jim Nicholson pictured addressing a meeting with Commissioner Phil Hogan
MEP Jim Nicholson pictured addressing a meeting with Commissioner Phil Hogan

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has welcomed the news that Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan plans to establish a new fund in co-operation with the European Investment Bank to provide low interest loans to the EU’s agricultural industry.

The Commissioner briefly outlined aspects of his proposals at an event co-chaired by Mr Nicholson and will formally reveal details of the initiative later this month.

Commenting Mr Nicholson said: “Shortly after assuming office Commissioner Hogan indicated that he and the European Commission, in conjunction with the European Investment Bank, were keen to explore ways of improving farmers’ access to finance.

“In particular, given the age profile of the agricultural industry, identifying ways of providing extra assistance to young farmers was highlighted as a priority as was targeting specific sectors which require high levels of investment.

“I welcome that these discussions appear to have been positive and that a new fund specifically for the agri-food industry is to be established in conjunction with the proposals made by Jean-Claude Juncker to increase investment in the EU.

“It is early days with only limited details being revealed by the Commissioner at this stage but, if established, the aim of the fund would be to provide low interest loans to assist several aspects of the industry, such as; forestry, restructuring dairy processing plants and marketing and branding. It is also proposed that the fund will specifically support young farmers plus help with the pre-financing of Rural Development Programmes.

“This is a major initiative which represents new thinking in terms of supporting EU agriculture and indicates a solid commitment to agri-food. The fund would be a boost to what is a key industry for the EU’s economy, an industry of strategic importance.”

“I look forward to learning more about the fund when further details are formally announced on 23 March by Commissioner Hogan.

Mr Nicholson added: “This is an important development which I will discuss in greater detail with the Commissioner in the weeks ahead to help ensure that the industry locally can make the most of the initiative.”