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ICOS attended the announcement in Brussels by Commissioner Hogan and senior officials of the European Investment Bank and warmly welcome this innovative initiative.

While we are in early days of the design of this instrument we see that it has the potential to make available at least €200 million worth of new investment to generate jobs and growth in the Irish rural economy up to 2020.

From an agri co-operative perspective, this funding has the potential to be used to fuel investment to drive our farmer owned dairy industry to meet the challenges and opportunities it faces post quota.

But even more importantly than those big investments, the fund has the potential to drive generational renewal in Irish agriculture; helping to invest in getting young people into our industry, helping our farms and businesses invest to embrace the key sustainability agenda; This initiative may be a funding source for start-up rural to feed into the economic recovery of the Irish countryside.

The fund, which is being provided by the EIB, will be rolled out at Member State level with each country’s banks providing the terms of the loan. However, interest rates will be lower than normal loans and could be as low as 1.5%. The minimum amount which can be loaned out to an individual is expected to be €40,000 and while there are particular focus areas, banks will be instructed to deal with each application on a “project by project” basis.

ICOS looks forward to working with the EU institutions, our own state agencies, banks, existing co-operative members and communities to examine ways to ensure that this programme can work and deliver on its potential.

ICOS calls on the Irish Government to prioritise the implementation of this new financial instrument so that farmers, co-ops and rural entrepreneurs can access this money as soon as possible.

The Commission will be holding an information event on the programme in Dublin at the end of May.