Budget 2021: INHFA welcomes rollover of GLAS

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has given a cautious endorsement of the budget proposals announced yesterday (Tuesday, October 13).

INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said: “The announcement of an additional €179 million for agriculture can provide a significant boost for the sector provided this money gets into farmers’ pockets.”

On the outgoing measures, the association has welcomed the rollover of GLAS (Green, Low-carbon, Agri-environment Scheme).

O’Donnell said: “It will provide a level of certainty for the 25,000 farmers in the final year of their contracts.

“However, clarity must be provided by the DAFM [Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine] with regard to possible penalties if a farmer is deemed to have breached their contract in the rollover year and also for farmers with leased land where their lease is now expiring.”

In welcoming proposals to pilot the new Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) ll, the farm leader said: “How the success of this will be determined, will be by the make-up of the scheme.”

The INHFA said it is currently engaging with its branch network in the development of a workable scheme.

The association says further clarity on the €79 million announced is needed before it can determine how many farmers can join in 2021.

“We will also need to assess what level of payment will be available to them and whether the €10 million of this announced for the tillage sector will be part of the REPS pilot, or will it be the basis of a separate scheme,” said O’Donnell.

Suckler and sheep farmers

On direct support for the suckler and sheep sectors, O’Donnell expressed disappointment that more direct support was not forthcoming.

The INHFA accepts the positives of ensuring continued support in those sectors, but O’ Donnell stated: “We will see an increasing number of suckler and sheep farmers that may have changed enterprise or increased stock numbers not catered for.

This is very apparent in the Sheep Welfare Scheme where the €17 million announced we expect only to cover existing flock owners.

Beef sector efficiency pilot scheme

With regard to the €40 million proposed for the new Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot Scheme, the INHFA said that it’s vital that the scheme accommodates small-scale suckler farmers.

On the announcement of the increased allocation of €25 million to Bord Bia, O’Donnell said it does “take away any excuse for not aggressively pursuing the development of a naturally-reared suckler brand which can have long-term benefits for our suckler sector”.

Designated lands

For farmers with designated lands, O’Donnell outlined how the association will be seeking clarity on where the increased allocation to the Department of Heritage will be spent and how much, if any, farmers who have “this burden” imposed on them, can expect to get.

In the proposals to spend €221 million for residential and community retrofit schemes, the INHFA president said: “There is an opportunity here to address the crisis in the sheep sector with regard to the wool price which is at an all-time low.

As a natural product, wool makes an excellent insulation material and if we get some joined up thinking there is an opportunity here.

The association is also concerned about the increase in carbon tax of €7.50/t.

“Those of us living in rural areas will be disproportionately impacted by this tax which will increase the cost of motoring which is why we are calling for the government to review it,” concluded O’Donnell.