Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Ag budget up 15pc to €1.5bn

Brexit team, €25m sheep scheme and cheaper credit in pipeline

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Agriculture is set to receive a €200m boost to its €1.3bn budget today as improving national finances begin to filter down to individual government departments.

Staff numbers at the Department of Agriculture are set to rise from the current 1,633, for the first time since the embargo was introduced in 2008, with new teams being established specifically to deal with the fallout from the impending Brexit.

Bord Bia will be at the forefront of this marketing push, and has been allocated an additional 10pc on top of its €109m.

Farmers will also benefit from the increased allocations, with the well-flagged Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS)aiming to deliver €25m through a €10/ewe payment linked to farmers meeting a minimum number of animal welfare criteria. The SWS is expected to begin paying out to farmers before the end of 2017.

Tillage farmers will also get access to TAMS grants for the first time, with payments available for min-till equipment.

However, the final details on the exact shape of a credit scheme have gone down to the wire as Minister Michael Creed attempted to roll out a scheme that caters for the needs of not just hard-pressed dairy farmers, but also other livestock men and tillage growers that have struggled with the 2016 harvest.

Fodder shortage

With a new Teagasc survey of farmers along the western seaboard highlighting a fodder shortage on 50pc of farms and over 11,000ac of cereal crops still to be harvested, the Minister knows that there are many genuine hardship cases meriting special attention.

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A source close to Mr Creed insisted that the €11m crisis fund granted to Ireland by Brussels this autumn needed to "benefit as many livestock farmers as possible".

The move by the Department to use the fund as part of a credit aid scheme contrasts starkly with the ICMSA's insistence that the €11m be ring-fenced solely for dairy farmers and transferred as a direct payment. Another big development in the agri budget is the planned introduction of an 'opt-out' year for farmers in income averaging.

Tax opt-out

This tweak to how farm incomes are taxed comes in response to farm lobby groups' calls for more measures to deal with price volatility.

The opt-out clause will be of particular relevance to farmers who have suffered this year, since it is expected to be backdated to cater for losses in 2016.

The concept of income 'warehousing' as proposed by ICOS and others has not been finalised in time for this budget. However, the idea "has not gone away" according to department sources.


No increases in the budget for the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme have been signalled, but the Beef Data Genomics Programme is set to reopen, along with GLAS, with sources suggesting that the scheme will be financed to cater for up to 50,000 farmers next year.

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