In reaction to the Budget announcement made on Wednesday, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president John Bryan said the cuts imposed by the Minister for Agriculture would hit Irish farmers hard.
Bryan explained that the extra taxes and pay-related social insurance (PRSI) changes would place further pressures on farming families, who had already suffered a drop of 22% in their incomes this year. He added: “Suckler and sheep farmers have an average income of €14,000, and some of them will inevitably be forced out of business, or on to Farm Assist, by the Minister’s decision to effectively close the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and cut the Sheep Grassland Payment.”
According to Bryan, the decision made by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to shut down the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme would be a “major blow” to the beef sector and showed a lack of commitment to the suckler cow herd. He also said the payment cuts would result in a limited uptake of the Beef Breeding Programme and insisted the Minister should revisit the decision to re-affirm his commitment to maintaining the Suckler Cow Herd.
“The Disadvantaged Areas Scheme cut is another serious hit on farm incomes, as it is an important support for low-income farmers,” said Bryan. “The Minister’s decision to cut the funding for the Sheep Grassland Scheme will dent the renewed confidence in the sector.”
Despite issues with parts of the Minister’s Budget, Bryan did welcome Minister Noonan’s decision to keep the main tax reliefs for agriculture and in particular his move to lengthen stock relief to all farm partnerships and improve land mobility by acknowledging the Capital Tax rules for farm consolidation.
Bryan said: “The changes to personal taxes and the introduction of the property tax will hit all families hard. On top of the cuts to the farm schemes, this Budget represents another disproportionate and unfair hit on farming families.”
Previous to the Budget announcement, Bryan announced he wanted funding for all farm schemes to be protected as times were hard.
“The impact of rising input costs and the atrocious weather conditions will still be felt well into next year on farms. Feed costs, in particular, will continue to have a negative effect on farm incomes and cashflow is already becoming a serious problem,” Bryan added.
“The recovery in farm incomes through 2010 and 2011 has come to an abrupt halt this year. IFA estimates that farm incomes will be back 22% or over €500m this year, underlining the importance of farm schemes. The Minister must be mindful of the pressure on farm families and insist around the Cabinet table that no further cuts are imposed.”