Brexit-proofing to the fore at IFA pre-budget lobby day

Additional reporting by Breifne O’Brien

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) held its pre-budget lobby event earlier today, Wednesday, September 25.

The farming organisation met with TDs and senators in efforts to secure Government commitments in the October budget that will support farmers.

The IFA stressed that there are a number of immediate threats and long-term challenges facing the sector, including: exposure to Brexit; Mercosur; the beef crisis; Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding; and ambitious targets outlined in the Government’s Climate Action Plan.

Outlining the farm body’s stance, IFA president Joe Healy said: “Agriculture is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector with exports valued at €13.7 billion in 2018. This represents 10% of our overall exports and 12% of industry turnover.

“Our message today is that the sustainable growth of this sector needs policies that encourage investment at farm level, recognise the role of agriculture in achieving balanced regional development and deliver viable farm incomes.”

Healy warned that Brexit uncertainty has caused farm losses of €100 million since May for beef producers.

“Implementation of our budget proposals can give them a signal that their role is recognised and that the Government is prepared to protect this valuable sector,” he said.

The IFA expenditure and taxation priorities for Budget 2020 include:
  • A Brexit fund of market support measures including direct support for farmers to include structural and adjustment funding. This will include the setting aside of the State Aid limits;
  • A €38 million increase in funding for suckler cow farmers in addition to the existing Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) schemes bringing total funding to €100 million;
  • Increased Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) funding of €50 million;
  • Removal of the discrimination in the tax system for the self-employed including the Earned Income Tax Credit and USC surcharge;
  • Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) funding must be increased to €120 million to meet all current and future payment claims and to ensure the full RDP allocation is spent;
  • An allocation of €10 million for the reopening of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Farm Plan Scheme for farmers with Natura land;
  • The contributory pension calculation must be in line with the National Pensions Framework and those on Farm Assist be credited with PRSI contributions;
  • The strategic prioritisation of renewable energy and micro or community-based renewable projects, in terms of planning and grid access to provide a potential additional income source; and
  • The introduction of a green tax credit where farmers with surplus energy are unable to sell back to the grid.

IFA farm business chairman Martin Stapleton also commented, adding: “There is a significant need for taxation supports, in particular through investment in emissions efficient equipment and the removal of discrimination in our tax system for the self-employed.”

Commenting on the Government’s Climate Action Plan, and its “ambitious targets”, Stapleton added: “Farmers are already engaged in significant climate mitigation actions, and we stand ready to do more.

“However, we need the support and leadership of Government if it is serious about delivering this plan,” he said.