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Monday, October 12, 2009

Farmers In Ireland Staging Tractor Protests

From the Irish Times

Farmers today held tractor protests in 29 towns and cities in a nationwide action over Government cuts.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) staged “tractorcades” in the 29 county areas where it organises. Tractors gathered outside the towns this morning and drove slowly through the different centres.

Protests were held in towns and cities such as Limerick, Kilkenny, Sligo, Ennis, Tralee, Carlow, Loughrea, Clonmel, Tullamore, Cavan, Monaghan, and Swords in Dublin. Most of the events began at noon, with farmers assembling at 11.30am.

Mr Walshe said farm income were expected to fall this year by up to 25 per cent and 35 per cent over a two-year period

According to AA Roadwatch, the protests have now ended, and traffic congestion is easing.

In a statement today, Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith said he "fully acknowledges" the difficulties facing the farming community this year and said he has been working within Government and at EU level, to alleviate those difficulties.

Mr Smith said a key element was the bringing forward of the Single Farm Payment and the support measures being put in place by the EU Commission for the dairy sector.

IFA president Pádraig Walshe, who led the protest in Portlaoise this morning, called on the Government to take immediate action to assist farmers. “Almost every town throughout rural Ireland is dependent on agriculture, and the income collapse will lead to significant downturn in business across the rural economy," he said.

Mr Walshe said farm incomes were expected to fall this year by up to 25 per cent and 35 per cent over a two-year period. He said the average farm income was below €15,000 this year.

The IFA head said support for the action was further evidence of the anger of farmers who face into a winter of cash shortages while trying to provide for their families and keep their businesses afloat.

The Minister for Agriculture recently met the major banks and the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) to discuss credit difficulties being experienced in the farming sector.

Mr Smith said the meeting had been “very useful and constructive” and expressed optimism "that ongoing efforts will impress upon and facilitate banks in providing more assistance to their farmer clients at this very difficult time, particularly having regard to low product prices this year”.

The Minister said he intends to continue talks with the IBF and the banks over agri-sector issues, including credit to farmers.