ANC funding, Brexit and income volatility top priorities for Budget 2018

Funding for the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme, Brexit measures and income volatility tools are top prioritises for political representatives heading into Budget 2018.

With just hours to go until the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, reveals all the measures in this year’s budget in the Dail, AgriLand spoke to some elected representatives about their hopes for the agri-sector.

News that the ANC scheme is set to get a €25 million funding boost is sure to please a lot of farmers, farm organisations and politicians alike. It is also understood that a €50 million Brexit package will be introduced in today’s budget announcement.

It is believed the €50 million package will focus on building competitiveness and exploring new market opportunities.

‘ANC funding is a top priority’

Speaking to AgriLand earlier this morning, Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue highlighted that ANC funding is a top priority heading into Budget 2018.

He also underlined the importance that schemes being administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine must be properly funded and followed through upon.

In recent years the department has suffered some administrative failures, with schemes such as the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS), the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) running behind schedule.

Meanwhile, Deputy McConalogue also believes that suggestions made by some organisations in relation to income volatility tools would also be beneficial and that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, should take them on board.

The Fianna Fail TD would be in favour of the low-cost loan scheme being reopened, as well as the establishment of a “rainy day” fund for farmers – where they could deposit money in a fund during a year of good prices and draw it down in a “bad year”.

Adequate funding also needs to be provided to deal with the obstacles arising as a result of Brexit, he added.

Support for suckler farmers and small exporters

Calls for an increase in funding for the ANC scheme were also echoed by Sinn Fein’s TD Martin Kenny.

Representing the Sligo-Leitrim constituency, the party’s agriculture spokesperson believes that payments need to be increased under the BDGP scheme in order to support suckler cows.

These payments need to be introduced to ensure that weanlings of the highest quality continue to be produced here in Ireland and that farmers are rewarded for their work, he said.

With the sheep sector in mind, Kenny is hoping that payments under the Sheep Welfare Scheme will be increased by €5/ewe – which would bring the overall payment to €15/ewe.

Small agri-food exporters will also need protection in order to survive in relation to Brexit, he added.

Deputy Kenny is also of the belief that funding needs to be set aside to carry out maintenance work on the River Shannon and the rest of Ireland’s river network, in order accommodate the “large and dangerous” levels of rainfall that are becoming more common.

Land succession

Talking to AgriLand earlier this morning, Independent TD Mattie McGrath outlined that a reform of existing land succession laws needs to be carried out in order to enable the transfer of farm land or property to be more equitable.

Deputy McGrath, who was elected in the Tipperary constituency, is also in favour of a land tax being introduced for large conglomerates who purchase and hold land banks of over 750ac. He hopes that this will then level the playing field for smaller farmers.

Similar to Deputy Kenny, he also supported an increase in the suckler cow grant. Outside of the budget, the Independent TD believes an immediate engagement needs to take place with the EU Commission, regarding the provisions outlined in its beef quota proposal to the Mercosur trade bloc.

Deputy McGrath, who is a member of Rural Independent Group, also believes that there is a need to introduce a fully-staffed section with the Department of Agriculture that is completely focused on managing the Brexit process in relation to agriculture policy.

The introduction of reforms to guarantee that the Nursing Homes Support Scheme “generates parity of esteem for farmers with other sectors of society” is a key priority for the Tipperary TD.

Concluding, he added that a positive re-evaluation of proposals to offset tax liability for a specific period linked to production and income needs to take place.