40,000 farm families in grant outcry

Caitriona Murphy

A WAR of words has broken out between the IFA and Teagasc over leaked proposals from Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn that could cost the children of 40,000 farm families their chance of securing a college grant.

Under the proposals, children from a farm with net assets of €750,000 would be excluded from third-level maintenance grants, regardless of income. Based on an average land price of €10,000/ac, this would equate to all farms over 75ac in size.

A Sunday Times article claimed that the leaked proposal was based on Teagasc figures that showed a farm valued at €750,000 could generate €41,000 in annual income, just over the threshold for a full college grant.

IFA president John Bryan challenged Teagasc to immediately clarify the role it played in facilitating Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, describing the calculations as 'deeply flawed'. He maintained that the calculations would result in discrimination against farm families as eligibility will be based on asset value.

However a spokesman for Teagasc insisted that Teagasc did not provide the type of calculation to any party. "Teagasc does not publish any Family Farm Income (FFI) estimates for different farm asset values," he added.

It is understood that the proposals are set to go before the cabinet during February but Fine Gael backbenchers are already dismissing the plan as 'impractical'.

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