Farmers and others involved in rural development are to be given access to cheaper and longer-term loans from the European Investment Bank after a new memorandum of understanding between the EU and the bank was launched in Brussels.

The funds will be available for farmer and co-op investments linked to the Government's Rural Development Programme. 

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said he expects farmers to use the scheme for a range of projects, including large on-farm investments needed for restructuring the dairy sector after the ending of milk quotas, and also to help young farmers to get started in agriculture.

This is the first time that European Investment Bank funds have been made available to farmers.

Mr Hogan said the initiative could boost investment in the rural economy across Europe by up to €20bn over the next six years.

Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Farmers' Association has said farmers are hopeful for flexibility from the Government on an EU directive under which the amount of money which individual farmers receive in grants will be published online. 

IFA concerned over the publishing of payment details

The IFA has said farmers are concerned that their private information would be published and that it may be a security risk. 

Eddie Downey said farmers have invested extremely well to grow their industry, and he said he did not think the publication of personal details was necessary. 

He said farmers were hopeful that the Department of Agriculture could treat the information as sensitively as possible, with the IFA hopeful that publishing the name and local town or townland of the farmer would be enough to satisfy the directive.