Farmers hit out over measures that 'fail to understand problems'
The Government has been accused of failing to understand the challenges facing the farming sector, despite a significant increase in funding for the Department of Agriculture and new supports for suckler farmers.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced a range of measures in the face of threats such as Brexit. He allocated an additional €57m of current expenditure to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2019.
The measures include €44m of direct aid for farmers, with a new suckler cow payment scheme worth €20m, and restoration of Areas of Natural Constraint payments to pre-crash levels, costing €22.7m.
Mr Donohoe said he recognised 2018 has been a difficult year for farmers - and with that in mind he renewed the existing stock relief measures, extended income averaging to farms with off-farm trading income, and provided for a three-year extension of the Young Trained Farmer stamp duty relief, which was due to expire at the end of this year.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said that against the background of the overarching requirement for a balanced Budget, his priority has been to deliver measures designed to help farmers, fishermen and food SMEs to navigate the challenges of Brexit.
"I also wanted to support those in the most disadvantaged areas, while maintaining ambition for the development of the food industry," he said.
Mr Creed said the Government provided €27m in Brexit-related supports for the food industry, including €13m in supports for food industry competitiveness and innovation and an additional €5m for Bord Bia, bringing the total Grant in Aid to €46.6m, while the forestry sector received €103m (including a capital carry-over) for 2019.
Despite these measures, the president of Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Pat McCormack, said: "It is quite clear now - if it wasn't before - that the current Government simply does not understand the scale of the challenges being faced by the farming sector.
"Farm families can only conclude that the Government has decided that it doesn't want to support farm families and the agenda now seems to be about enhancing the position of corporate structures and big business over family farms," he said.
Mr McCormack said the biggest single issue facing family farms is income volatility and, as sole traders, the taxation system absolutely hammers farmers trying to make a living in an extremely volatile global food market.
"As a matter of fact, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed acknowledged this following the last two Budgets and it is extremely disappointing that he has failed yet again to deliver for farm families on this matter," he said.
IFA president Joe Healy said yesterday's Budget was some acknowledgement of the income difficulties in agriculture, but the upcoming issues of Brexit and CAP will require more Government commitment and support for farming.
Mr Healy said the increased ANC funding of €22.7m, to bring the allocation to €250m, was positive and reverses the cuts imposed on the lowest income farmers in previous budgets. He said the IFA would continue its campaign for increased funding of €300m as it is vital for low-income farmers on marginal land.
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association president Patrick Kent has welcomed the €40 for weighing calves under a new suckler cow scheme, but was more critical of other taxation measures.
Farming at a glance
Suckler Cow Payment
- The €20m Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot Scheme (BEEPS) will add to the existing €300m BDGP/ Genomics supports.
Areas of Natural Constraints payments
- The ANC scheme will be restored to its pre-crash budget level of €250m.Payments targeted at the most marginal land.
- Income average option has been extended to include farm families with off-farm trading. It allows eligible farmers to calculate taxable income as an average of the current and previous four years, smoothing their tax liability.
Stamp Duty Relief
- Exemption is extended where farm land is sold or transferred to "young trained farmers".