Budget 2018: ‘Young farmers need better access to funding’

Access to funding for young farmers and high-speed broadband for all of rural Ireland – not just the easy-to-reach parts – have been highlighted as key issues ahead of Budget 2018, according to Macra na Feirme.

During a briefing with TDs and Senators last week – including Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed and opposition spokespeople on finance and agriculture – Macra na Feirme National President James Healy highlighted the key areas of concern for the young farmers’ organisation.

Speaking after the briefings, Healy said: “Income volatility within the agricultural sector is a challenge for all farmers – especially young farmers.

Young farmers and new entrants do not have the financial reserves built up that are required to manage through extended periods of income volatility.

“Macra na Feirme is supporting the ICOS [Irish Co-operative Organisation Society] income stabilisation measures which would offer an effective, tax efficient solution for young farmers which would offer a level of income security,” Healy announced.

“Access to finance is a particular challenge facing young farmers. The recently published Indecon report – ‘Ex-Ante Assessment of the use of Financial Instruments within the Agriculture Sector’ – identified a capital market failing resulting in a funding gap for capital investment of €105 million rising to €350 million in 2025.

“If the sector expands in line with national targets, this report highlights the shortage of capital available to farmers.

Macra na Feirme has proposed to government, that a specific low-interest investment fund for young farmers should be offered through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.

“Such an investment fund will enable young farmers to establish themselves in a sustainable fashion. The ability for young farmers to grow their business enterprises during challenging times is crucial especially in the face of uncertainties such as Brexit.”

Concluding, Healy said: “Young people in rural communities need access to key services such as broadband.

“Rural Ireland has been promised high-speed broadband for the past 10+ years.

“Social and economic opportunities in rural Ireland require the immediate and progressive roll out of broadband to all of rural Ireland – not just the easily accessible parts.”