Budget 2018: Main priorities of Irish agri stakeholders

On the eve of tomorrow’s (Tuesday, October 10) announcement of Budget 2018, AgriLand asked the key farming organisations and stakeholders of Irish agriculture what their main priorities are for funding in the sector, and what they want to see brought in with the new budget.

Some of the most sought-after changes being urged to be adopted in tomorrow’s budget have been voiced by several different organisations, showing widespread farmer support for certain proposals.

IFA

The IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) is calling for delivery on its budget proposals, which it hopes will: contribute to tackling low farm incomes; underpinning the contribution of the farming and agri-food sector to the economy, including the Foodwise 2025 targets; and supporting economic activity in rural communities.

This means equalising the Earned Income and PAYE tax credits, increasing funding for the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) and making available further low-cost bank financing to farmers.

ICMSA

A top priority of the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association) is income volatility management, which the association hopes will take the form of its proposed ‘Farm Management Deposit Scheme’.

In this proposed scheme, farmers would be able to deposit up to 30% of farm profit into a special account during “good years”, untouched by the farmer or tax for a maximum period of five years.

This could then be drawn down by the farmer during “bad years” or times of investment, taxed at the normal rate.

In addition, the ICMSA noted that it welcomed the increase in the Earned Income credit to €950 in the last budget. The government has already committed to equalizing this credit to the PAYE tax credit in successive budgets and the group believes this process should be concluded and done within Budget 2018.

INHFA

The INHFA (Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association) has prioritised ANC payments, seeking an additional €25 million for the ANC Scheme, due for payout in 2018. Along with this the organisation has highlighted the need to fully utilise the €25 million already allocated to the scheme.

Apart from the ANC, the INHFA is also looking for more resources to support efforts made by the group to market and establish an outlet for light hill lambs.

Farm safety, rural crime and aid for weather-related challenges were underlined as well by the farmers’ group for Budget 2018.

ICSA

Meanwhile, the ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association) has also highlighted the ANC, seeking an additional €25 million as a “first step to full restoration” of the €257 million budget that was available for the old DAS (Disdvantaged Areas Scheme) before the recession.

Along with this, the ICSA is seeking €10 million to fund the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Scheme) Farm Plan Scheme for designated land.

While on other fronts, the group is pushing for the tax credit for self employed to be brought up to the same level as PAYE workers.

The ICSA also called for the CAT (Capital Acquisition Tax) exemption to increase from €310,000 to €350,000 for category A transfers, as well as equivalent increases in the category B and C thresholds.

Finally, the group looked for a “rainy day fund” to be put in place to allow farmers to put some profits into a special account in a good year and pay tax when the funds are drawn down in a bad year.

FCI

With Budget 2018 in mind, the Association of Farm Contractors in Ireland (FCI) believes that registered farm contractors should be allowed Accelerated Investment Allowances (AIAs) to allow them invest in high capital cost machinery.

AIAs have been used in Britain to encourage the use of more modern machinery, that can deliver fuel savings and improved operator safety in addition to significant operation efficiencies, the FCI added.

The association has also requested that the Minister for Finance and Public Reform, Paschal Donohoe, introduces a “special short-term provision” to allow VAT ratings for grass and silage harvesting activities by farm contractors to be reduced from 13.5% to 9% for a period of two years.

Meanwhile, among its other requests, the FCI has called for an income tax incentive scheme to be established for seasonal agricultural workers – in order to make working with a farm contractor a more attractive seasonal employment option.

The FCI has also called for a change in policy relating to grant aid for low-emission slurry spreading equipment. The association believes that farmers should get a subsidy for the engagement of farm contractors who use the latest low-emission technology for the application of animal slurry.

This would ensure greater efficiency in the use of modern technology through economy of scale rather than merely in ownership, the FCI added.