Business supports for farmers sought in ICOS budget submission

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) published its pre-budget submission earlier today, outlining its priorities in advance of October’s budget.

This submission includes income stabilisation measures for farmers and supports for marts among several other proposals put forward.

ICOS President, Martin Keane, commented on the submission saying: “The adoption of Budget 2018 comes at a time of unprecedented uncertainty for the Irish agri-food sector.

“Brexit will result in a major upheaval as the UK accounts for 37% of Irish food and drink exports. Additionally, income volatility remains a significant threat to the achievement of the Food Wise 2025 Strategy.

“ICOS is strongly urging the government to announce the establishment of an income stabilisation measure, whereby some income might be deferred in a period of high prices and drawn down in a period of lower prices.

“In last year’s budget, the government committed to further consideration of such a measure. It is now time for its implementation,” the president stated.

ICOS is proposing that a farmer can enter into a voluntary agreement with their co-operative to defer up to 5% of their gross annual income.

“The deferred income will be held in an account for the specific purpose of the scheme and can be drawn down at any time and subject to income tax at the time of [it being] draw down. The proposal by ICOS can result in a significant stabilisation impact on the income of a typical family farm enterprise.”

The ICOS pre-budget submission also proposes a series of measures to assist the agri-food sector to adapt to a post-Brexit scenario.

Martin Keane, ICOS President

Keane added: “The government must include measures in Budget 2018 to deal with the unparalleled threat to the Irish economy by the UK’s decision to exit the EU, including current Brexit-related sterling weakness.

“ICOS is calling for increased funding for key state agencies such as Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland to support the promotion of Irish agri-food exports on new markets and product diversification.

“The government should also investigate the requirement for a national export credit scheme to assist businesses in expanding to new global markets. Further, the greater utilisation of EIB (European Investment Bank) financing by the agricultural sector and rural businesses must be prioritised.

ICOS is also calling for specific support for livestock marts, which are a key focal point across many rural towns.

Keane concluded, noting: “There are many challenges facing the marts sector including increased costs such as insurance and local authority rates.

“ICOS reiterates its call for the government to introduce a fairer system of rates collection for marts, based on the number of days trading annually rather than the standard method.”