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Friday 14 December 2018

Government accused of not understanding scale of challenges facing farmers despite Budget funding boost

  • Restoration of the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) payments
  • New Suckler payment
  • Fuel price hikes put off by lobbying
  • Inheritance Tax threshold to rise by €10,000 to €320,000
Minister Paschal Donohoe arrives at Government buildings with Budget 2019. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Minister Paschal Donohoe arrives at Government buildings with Budget 2019. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Despite announcing a significant increase in funding for the Department of Agriculture and new supports for suckler farmers in its 2019 Budget the Government has been accused of failing to understand the challenges facing farmers.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe announced a range of measures for the agricultural sector which he said faces a number of threats with Brexit posing specific challenges.

He allocated an additional €57 million of current expenditure to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2019.

The measures announced by the Minister include €44m of direct aid for farmers which included a new suckler cow payment scheme worth €20m, restoration of Areas of Natural Constraint payments to pre-crash levels costing €22.7m.

Minister Donohoe said he recognised that 2018 has been a difficult year for farmers and with that in mind, he renewed the existing stock relief measures, extended income averaging to farms with off-farm trading income and provided for a three year extension of the Young Trained Farmer stamp duty relief, which was due to expire at the end of this year.

'Biggest single-issue facing family farms is income volatility.'

Despite these measures the President of Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Pat McCormack said “that it is quite clear now – if it wasn’t before -  that the current Government simply does not understand the scale of the challenges being faced by the farming sector.”   

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Pat McCormack President of the ICMSA.

“Farm families can only conclude that the Government has decided that it doesn’t want to support farm families and the agenda now seems to be about enhancing the position of corporate structures and big business over family farms,” he said.

Mr McCormack said the biggest single-issue facing family farms is income volatility and, as sole traders, the taxation system absolutely hammers farmers trying to make a living in an extremely volatile global food market.

“As a matter of fact, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed acknowledged this following the last two Budgets and it is extremely disappointing that he has failed yet again to deliver for farm families on this matter,” he said. 

ANC funding welcome

IFA President Joe Healy said today’s Budget was some acknowledgement of the income difficulties in agriculture, but the upcoming significant issues of Brexit and CAP will require much more Government commitment and support for farming.

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Joe Healy on his farm near Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

Mr Healy said the increased ANC funding of €22.7m, to bring the allocation to €250m, was positive and reverses the cuts imposed on the lowest income farmers in previous budgets. He said IFA would continue its campaign for increased funding of €300m as it is vital for low-income farmers on marginal land.

However, he also said that the €200 increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit to €1,350 does not go far enough.

Weighing calves

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association president Patrick Kent has welcomed the €40 for weighing calves under a new suckler cow scheme announced in today’s budget; however, Mr Kent was more critical of other taxation measures.

He also said that many farmers would be amazed at the substantial increase in afforestation money compared to what is being directed at livestock farming.

“There is a serious question over blanket sitka spruce plantations both regarding climate change and impact on rural communities.”

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