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New €23m scheme will boost our beef farmers

BEEF farmers are the main winners, with a new €23m scheme designed to improve the genetic base of the 1.1 million suckler cow herd.

The scheme will run in conjunction with the existing €10m Beef Data Transfer Scheme and €5m Beef Technology Adoption Scheme, and should be worth €60 per calf.

Farmers will be required to take hair samples from 15pc of their calves for DNA analysis in order to qualify for the new payment.

The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) will identify the calves that the farmer must sample, and charge €30 per calf for the test kit.

However, Department officials claimed that this would not cost more than 10pc of the total amount that farmers would receive.

While the overall Department of Agriculture budget will fall by €29m, there are projected savings of approximately €45m through the winding up of early retirement, environmental, and previous beef cow schemes.

Lower levels of TB and fines from the EU for the implementation of the €1.5bn Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have also saved nearly €10m.

"Since 2008, this department has been spending €100m less annually and is operating with a third less staff," Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said.

The minister said that this was the first year in six that there had been no cuts to any of the farm schemes.

However, there will be no environmental scheme for farmers to enter next year, the first time in over a decade.

"The absence of a new agri-environment scheme for the 13,000 farmers leaving REPS4 is a serious blow," claimed IFA president John Bryan.

However, farm organisations broadly welcomed the Budget.

The sheep sector also received an improved allocation of €15m, while the dairy, forestry, horticulture, horse and greyhound industries maintained their 2013 allocations.

The minister has also attempted to "break farmer mindset" that has resulted in a lot of land that is not actively farmed by allowing retiring farmers to lease their land on long-term agreements without affecting their subsequent capital gains tax criteria.

"We know that 50pc of farmers have no successor. We want to get them to stop worrying about having a successor and instead let them work with other farmers that need more land," said Minister Coveney.

The farmers' flat rate of VAT is also set to increase from 4.8pc to 5pc.

"This will be an injection of €10m straight into farmers' pockets," claimed Minister Coveney.

Budgets for state agencies such as Bord Bia, Teagasc and the Marine Institute are to remain largely unchanged.

In addition, these agricultural and fishery bodies will be able to side-step the on-going moratorium on staff "where a good case can be made", according to the minister.

All the existing tax reliefs have remained unchanged, but a complete review of the tax reliefs that apply to the agriculture sector is set to be carried out over the next 12 months.

Irish Independent