WITH over €2 billion in cuts on the way in the December budget, The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association is insisting that the government should make savings by cutting civil servants' pay rather than farmers' grants.
The ICSA's pre-Budget submission says agri-business is crucial to the national effort to reverse the economic downturn and its development should not be held back by grant cuts.
"Support schemes which constitute an essential part of family farm incomes must not be targeted for further cuts. For example, the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS), which is vital for many livestock farmers, has taken a cut of more than 25% over recent budgets; while 62,000 farmers are gradually being taken out of REPS before it closes down completely in 2014, to be replaced by an agri-environment scheme (AEOS) that is far more restricted in scope and funding," said ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin.
He added that the government's failure to achieve savings to public sector pay under the Croke Park Agreement means a "disproportionately high number of cuts are made to vital schemes, front-line services and capital investment." Among those theatened by cuts are farmers and this is simply not fair, he argued.
"Farmers could argue all day long that vital payments such as the DAS and REPS form part of their core pay – but it would fall on deaf ears and continue to be vulnerable to cuts. The Government needs to apply some fairness in the treatment of the public and private sectors and tackle increments and allowances head-on."
Competitiveness and the cost of doing business is also a major concern for ICSA. "A lot of thought and effort is put into cutting costs and staying competitive every day by farmers. The Government must step up and make a similar effort to enable the agri-food industry to thrive. For instance, ICSA is calling for an immediate 10% reduction in electricity costs, which are a huge burden on the sector," he said.
"We are also calling on the Government to provide a 100% grant to any household required to carry out upgrade work on their septic tanks. Rural dwellers must be treated equally with their urban counterparts and this is the only way that can be achieved," he added.