Brexit measures and help for the most vulnerable farmers look to be in sight
It is farmers working some of the most marginal and disadvantaged land in the country that have been put top of the wishlist for this year’s Budget.
For once, all of the myriad farm organisations seem to be speaking as one as they have demanded the €25m promised in the Programme for Government be delivered to the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme (ANC), formerly known as the disadvantaged areas scheme.
It was described as an easy target for swingeing cuts in 2008 when expenditure was slashed from €257m to €220m. Then a second cut led to it dropping to €195m.
It affected some of the most vulnerable in the farming community and a reversal has already been long promised.
However, the big ‘B’ word in the farming sector has been Brexit. The rollercoaster volatility in the sterling and euro exchange rate has seen millions of euro wiped off of our valuable agri-trade with our nearest neighbours.
The level of dependence on certain industries, including mushrooms, has seen producers go to the wall, with the UK also taking up to 50pc of our valuable beef exports, worth over €1bn last year.
The Government has signalled this Budget will be framed with measures to help combat Brexit in mind, after an extra €6.7m in funding was recently diverted to Bord Bia to help target market diversification.
Both the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) have suggested variations on a farm deposit scheme that would allow farmers to put money in a deposit scheme in ‘good’ years and draw it down in ‘bad’ years to smooth-out their incomes.