Budget 2018: Greenlight for ANC top-up, more cash for TAMS, new low-cost loan scheme in pipeline

  • €25m top-up to the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme

  • Expenditure on the TAMS programme is to rise by €20m this year

  • €25m for low cost loans

  • Leasing land for Solar farming to be classed as agricultural activity

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said his Budget would leave working families better off
Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said his Budget would leave working families better off
Paschal Donohoe delivers his speech in the Dail on Budget Day
Minister Michael Creed

Margaret Donnelly & Ciaran Moran

Marginal farmers and solar farming are among the winners in today's Budget.

The long-awaited €25m top-up to the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme has been given the green light.

Expenditure on the TAMS programme is to rise by €20m this year to meet the increase in approval levels and the Budget has also included provision for a €25m scheme similar to last year's low-cost loans for farmers.

There was extremely high demand for the €150m low-cost loan scheme, developed by the Government and Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) for cash-strapped farmers. The farm bodies have been warning access to credit at a competitive rate is vital to provide working capital on farms.

There will also be continued expenditure under the Rural Development Programme for schemes such as GLAS and the €300m Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

However, there won't be any increase in funding under the BDGP scheme.

The Minister for Finance announced an increase in funding of €64m for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This will bring the total investment in this sector to over €1.5 billion in Exchequer funding in 2018.

It is understood the increase in stamp duty on commercial land from 2pc to 9pc will not impact on agricultural land.

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Solar Farming

In his budget 2018 announcement, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe provided for the leasing of agricultural land for solar panels to be classified as qualifying agricultural activity for the purposes of specific Capital Acquisitions Tax and Capital Gains Tax reliefs.

He said this initiative, which is subject to the panels covering no more than 50pc of the total farm holding, should support diversification, expand the generation of renewable energy and help tackle climate change.

Head of Tax at IFAC accountants, Declan McEvoy said the move is of massive benefit for farming.

“Up to now the lack of relief holding back farmers from entering agreements,” he said. But he also warned that many solar panel companies look for minimum land requirement of in the region of 100ac. Since June 2015 there has been over 200 solar farm planning applications.

Further good news for the agri-food sector is the announcement of a €300m fund for low-cost loans for SMEs and agri-food businesses and the additional €25m fund allocated to the Department of Agriculture.

Minister for Finance has provided the following for 2018:

  • €626 million for the Rural Development Programme including: -
  • €233.8 million for Agri-environmental schemes (Incl AEOS/GLAS/Organics)
  • €227 million for Areas of Natural Constraint
  • €50 million for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme
  • €70 million for Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS)
  • €23 million for Knowledge Transfer Programme
  • €20 million for the Animal Welfare Scheme for Sheep
  • €126.5 million for Fisheries, fishery harbours and marine related NCSSBs – MI, BIM and SFPA - €40.5m of this is for the Seafood Development Programme
  • €106 million for Forestry
  • €18.6 million for Research
  • €87 million for Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health including €34 million for TB & Brucellosis eradication and €4.2 million for Animal Welfare
  • €1.5 million towards the rural innovation fund to support Female Rural Entrepreneurs,  social farming and agri-food tourism initiatives( CEDRA)
  • €257.6 million for Non-Commercial State Sponsored Bodies under the Department’s aegis (Teagasc, Marine Institute, Bord Bia, B.I.M, SFPA)
  • €80 million in support of the Horse (€64m) and Greyhound (€16m) racing industries
  • €25m for the development of further Brexit response loan schemes for the sector to benefit farmers, fishermen and food businesses.

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