USING state aid to bolster individual nation's farming industry in the EU used to be a pretty big non, non. For a start, it should not be used to distort other markets within the EU by unfairly subsidising the dumping of produce on other Member States' markets.

Another reason would be that it allows commercial exploitation of the situation by market manipulation. Something that the EU was pretty hot on clamping down on.

But, it would appear that the regulatory filters have either been overlooked, or totally disregarded with regard to Ireland's (and you can count both North and South in that) Covid-19 market aid. The nett effect of which will be to allow 'subsidised' beef and other commodities onto the GB market.

It has already been a factor in two of the Irish-owned meat packers in Scotland dropping the price it paid to farmers by 5p per kg this week. There was a fairly hefty uplift in the cattle kill across Ireland in the past couple of weeks, but market traders reckon that this was almost entirely influenced by producers upping the kill to get within the time limits of the State Aid, which in Northern Ireland amounted to up to £73 per head as compensation for losses during Covid-19 restrictions up to the end of June.

Another possible market distortion could be for potato growers, though this could be less of a problem to the GB market. NI potato men, we believe, will be given the equivalent of £140 per tonne in compensation for market troubles during the Covid-19 lockdown – but will still be able to sell what stock they have left in store (which is currently worth around £200 per tonne for some varieties on the free-buy market).

Scottish and UK farmers will not have much beef with their Irish counterparts, other than to ask: 'Where's our market-levelling compensation?' to our own governments.

It's a bit disingenuous to suggest that 'we' were given the convergence monies as 'compensation' last year and this – as has been suggested by some in the Emerald Isle – but that ignores the fact that this was to put right a historical wrong. This was money that had long been accepted was due to us.

Kelso lost

THE LOSS of the famous Kelso Ram Sales will be a sore one for sheep producers and auctioneers, including the town itself which will have benefitted very much from the influx of breeders and buyers from all over the UK and Ireland.

It will be a monumental amount of sheep that will have to be sold and moved by other means. But the cabbages and the sainfoin will have been sown and so there will be some great tups in fantastic order out there for prospective buyers. The auction trade will step up to the mark, we're sure, but just remember they also have the systems in place to iron out any issues, which is well worth remembering when buying.