I am conscious of the issues which have been experienced in the dairy sector in recent times. There have been a number of measures implemented to support dairy sector producers through market transition in the post milk quota period. Central to these supports was the Super Levy Instalment Scheme, introduced in 2015, which allowed participants to spread their super levy bill over three years interest free. Ireland was one of the few EU member states to introduce this scheme for its dairy farmers in order to ease the burden of the super levy bill for those who wished to avail of it.
Additional exceptional aid measures for the sector included a one off co-funded support payment of €1,395 to dairy producers in 2015. In 2016 a Voluntary Supply Management Scheme formed part of the exceptional aid package from the EU Commission from which over €6.5m was paid to Irish dairy producers.
A further measure implemented by my Department under the 2016 EU exceptional aid package was the Agriculture Cash flow Support Loan Scheme. This scheme was developed by my Department in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), making €150 million available to farmers at interest rates of 2.95%. Distributed and administered through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, the Scheme provides farmers with a low cost, flexible source of working capital and will allow them to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, ensuring the on-going financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.
These supports are of course additional to the many schemes available to dairy farmers under the Rural Development Programme including GLAS, TAMs and Knowledge Transfer. My Department continues to monitor the market situation for dairy and other sectors to ensure that the most appropriate supports are made available to producers and to ensure that volatility mitigation measures are kept under active consideration.