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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Suckler herds need cash injection to stay viable - IFA

IFA President Joe Healy at the launch of IFA's prebudget submission with Joe Brady, rural development chairman, Martin Stapleton, farm business chairman and chief economist Rowena Dwyer. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
IFA President Joe Healy at the launch of IFA's prebudget submission with Joe Brady, rural development chairman, Martin Stapleton, farm business chairman and chief economist Rowena Dwyer. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The future viability of suckler herds are coming under increased threat, the IFA has warned.

Speaking at launch of the their pre-budget submission 2017, Joe Healy, IFA president, outlined a number of long term and short term measures to help "inject vital funding" into the sector and stem the farm income crisis.

Among the short term initiatives, Mr Healy highlighted the need for the immediate reopening of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme.

"We need to see that the scheme is well funded with an increase in payments for suckler cows. We want to see an increase in the level of funding to ¤200 per cow to make it viable to keep the herds" he said.

He says the issue is particularly prominent in the most rural areas and on many islands, including Clare Island, County Mayo, where he visited just last week.

"Farmers there told me that it didn't pay to keep suckler cows anymore and that the number of suckler cows is greatly reducing," he said.

"For the likes of the islands and rural areas suckler herds are the lifeblood because in many cases there are no dairy farms and the suckler cows are the only suitable animal," he told the Farming Independent.

The IFA are also calling for increased funding of €250m for the agri-environment schemes, the introduction of a targeted sheep scheme of €25m with "minimal costs and bureaucracy on farmers," and increased funding to the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme. Mr Healy also said "it's crucial" that all sectors should avail of income averaging and that restrictions on eligibility, where the farmer's spouse is self employed, should be removed.

The IFA also propose that in a year when farm income falls significantly, tax should be paid based on the actual income earned rather than the average tax due arising from five years' income.

The deferral would be carried forward and paid over a three year period.

"Prices have fallen since Brexit, so in a volatile year like we are having, we believe you should pay tax on the estimated income for this year and then be able to defer tax on anything on top of that over the following three years," said Mr Healy.

"It's absolutely not a way of getting out of paying tax, it's just in the difficult year, you would be allowed you to defer tax over but it would all be paid," he said.

Martin Stapleton, IFA farm business chairman, said this mechanism should provide an "effective response and ease cash-flow pressures".

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