‘Devil will be in the detail’ of Covid beef scheme – ICSA

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA)  has said that today’s budget provides some “welcome clarity” around the continuation of schemes and supports to farmers but it also “provokes some questions”.

The association said that the cloud of a possible Brexit failure and Covid-19 lockdowns over-shadow everything.

ICSA President Edmond Phelan said: “ICSA welcomes the allocation of €79 million for pilot agri-environment / REPS schemes and funds to roll over the existing GLAS, BDGP and sheep welfare schemes.

The €45 million allocation for a Covid beef scheme to improve carbon efficiency may also be helpful but the devil will be in the detail.

“ICSA is concerned that there is no explicit mention of the continuation of BEEP-S and we want the minister to clarify this as soon as possible,” he said.

“ICSA strongly welcomes the commitment to increase funding for the Organic Farming Scheme to €16 million from €12 million.

“There is no point in grandiose ideas in the EU Farm to Fork strategy without the necessary supports and it will also require a lot more effort in terms of driving new market access for organic beef and lamb,” said Phelan.

The association says it has lobbied hard for a trebling of the Sheep Welfare Scheme and that the overall increase in funding for the department – €179 million – provides room for this.

The ICSA states that there should be scope for more ambitious funding of a suckler brand strategy which should also receive a portion of the extra €25 million earmarked for Bord Bia.

Also Read: Budget 2021: €25 million allocated to Bord Bia due to Brexit

“ICSA cautiously welcomes the confirmation of the establishment of a Food Ombudsman because ICSA started looking for a Food Chain Regulator in 2014 but again we reiterate, the office must be given real power to bring transparency to the food chain and outline who makes what from products such as beef,” added Phelan,

Taxation

On taxation, ICSA said it welcomes the fact that the tax ‘discrimination’ against self-employed people such as farmers will end with the announcement that the earned income tax credit will increase to €1,650.

“This was originally meant to be achieved in three years but better late than never, although it should be noted that it will be 2022 before the benefit actually impacts farmers,” said the president.

“ICSA also welcomes the extension of the stamp duty reliefs (consanguinity relief and farm consolidation) which means that the stamp duty for these land transfers remains at 1% rather than the punitive 7.5%.

We are disappointed that there was nothing done to increase the Capital Acquisitions Tax thresholds.

The association said that overall, the budget is “no longer sufficient on its own to handle the increasing volatility posed by Brexit and Covid-19 risks”.

“If we don’t have tariff-free access to the UK in 2021, then there is nothing in this budget that will stave off disaster,” Phelan concluded.