Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Hill farmers call for Basic Income model to replace Farm Assist

Stock image. Photo: Brian Joyce
Stock image. Photo: Brian Joyce
Stock image
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The INHFA has called for a Universal Basic Income model for farmers in receipt of the Farm Assist payment.

The hill farmer group said such a move would provide recipients with greater income certainty and promote innovation and development in rural areas.

The INHFA has called for the trialling of the Universal Basic Income model, with recipients receiving €200/week (for adults aged 18 and over) and €100/week for any dependent children.

The INHFA has proposed in its pre-Budget submission that 500 spaces be made available whereby farmers who are currently in receipt of the means-tested Farm Assist could switch over to a Basic Income payment. The move would be voluntary and on a three-year trial basis.

INHFA spokesman Vincent Roddy said the trial period should be guaranteed for three years irrespective of any improvements in circumstances, through, for example, changed employment or the establishment of a new business.

"The Basic Income would, however, be identified as income in their tax returns and eligible for tax if their overall income warranted it," Mr Roddy said.

"The only requirement on behalf of the farmer would be that they continue to farm, and after the trial period they could return, if their income warranted it, to the Farm Assist scheme."

Limitations

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While Farm Assist supports the incomes of more than 7,000 farmers, Mr Roddy said the measure had serious limitations.

He pointed out that any improvements in farm income can be penalised through a reduction or entire loss of the farmer's Farm Assist payment - even where the increased earnings in a particular year result from delayed CAP payments from the previous 12 months.

Mr Roddy cited the example of the recent delays in GLAS payments as a case in point.

He said the Basic Income model would help alleviate the stress caused to farm families by delayed or reduced direct payments.

"Farmers need the certainty of an income that can put food on the table and pay essential bills. A Basic Income can provide that certainty," Mr Roddy insisted.

The INHFA has suggested that the Basic Income trial could be extended to include 500 third-level students, 500 on jobseekers' allowance, and 500 self-employed people or small business owners living at least 50km outside the country's five largest urban areas.

"Assess how the trial goes and then we can judge the merits, if any, of rolling this scheme out nationally," Mr Roddy said.

A national adoption of the Basic Income model would cost €43 billion and would almost double the overall Social Protection budget.

However, the INHFA argues that this increase would be recovered through extra tax revenue, thereby making the Basic Income scheme revenue neutral overall.

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