IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has accused Minister Joan Burton of hounding farmers on Farm Assist with new and more rigorous means testing.

The IFA says that the assessment is failing to take account of the volatility in farm incomes resulting in farmers’ payments having been cut back or removed totally.

The Rural Development Chairman has said  that the Department of Social Protection had introduced this reassessment procedure without any consultation and that the new form that farmers are being asked to fill out is more onerous and is not taking account of the costs associated with farming.

McCarthy is now calling on Minister Burton, the Minister for Social Protection, to withdraw this flawed assessment document.

“Farm Assist is a vital support to low income farmers. Currently, around 10,000 farmers receive support worth €95m from the scheme. The scheme has suffered over the last number of years when the income disregards were removed in the 2011 and 2012 Budgets,” the Rural Development Chairman said.

“The scheme must be capable of dealing with the changing farm income environment and the means test must be done a fair and accurate way,” McCarthy said.

Furthermore, the IFA says it has sought an urgent meeting on this issue so that when the assessment is done, the farmer is confident that it takes account of the overall situation on the farm.

Farm Assist, the means-tested income scheme for farmers, takes into account all forms of income of the farmer but assesses it different ways and disregards different amounts.