Budget 2018 draws mixed response from hill farmers

Budget 2018 has been met with a mixed reaction by the INHFA (Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association) following its announcement by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, yesterday.

The President of the INHFA, Colm O’Donnell, has welcomed the additional €25 million in funding for the ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) scheme.

Along with this, the president highlighted the need to fully utilise the €25 million already allocated to the scheme.

However, O’Donnell said, for the extra funding to be used effectively it must be targeted towards landowners with the worst natural constraints. He added that, in conjunction, such additional funding must take into account new criteria for farmers that has been introduced – ensuring that farmers are recompensed for new restrictions.

The president welcomed the announcement of the €50 million Brexit response package, noting that a substantial amount of resources would have to be put into various trading outlets and establishing new markets.

Regarding the Brexit loan scheme of €300 million for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), O’Donnell said that such funding was welcome to help deal with the impact of Brexit.

However, O’Donnell said that the separate €25 million Brexit loan scheme for the agri-food sector was helpful but not high enough.

‘Young farmers must be strategic priority’

Meanwhile, the national president of Macra na Feirme, James Healy, also gave a mixed reaction to the budget.

He underlined that the budget offers “something for everyone, but it didn’t go far enough for our young farmer base”.

The president noted: “In many ways Budget 2018 is an inch deep and a mile wide.”

The organisation welcomed the Brexit Loan Scheme, with Healy commenting: “Access to funding is a struggle for young agri entrepreneurs – we welcome the €300 million announced for the Brexit Loan Scheme. Young farmers must be a strategic priority within this allocation.”

Healy expressed his disappointment that the Minister for Finance made no effort to tackle the issues of income volatility for farmers.

He said: “No other industry could survive the income peak-to-trough experienced by farmers. Macra na Feirme had proposed measures through the taxation code to assist farmers in managing volatility. This was a missed opportunity by the minister.”