Fair Deal scheme ‘unworkable’ at present for farm families

The President of the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association), John Comer, has announced that his organisation has put forward specific proposals to address the anomalies in the Fair Deal scheme.

Comer said he believes that – with a degree of commitment and sense of realism – it should still be possible to adapt the scheme in a way that makes it somewhat ‘fit-for-purpose’ for farming families.

The president said that where a farm family or self-employed family finds itself in a position where a family member requires nursing home care, it should not result in a risk to the future of that family’s business – and the rules of the Fair Deal Scheme should be modified to take this issue into account.

This is not the first time, Comer said, that he has pointed out that the Fair Deal scheme is – to all intents and purposes – unworkable as far as the farming community is concerned.

He added that the key reason for that defect was the scheme’s entirely wrongheaded categorisation of the family farm as an asset – and not a means by which income is earned.

We’re back here at this fundamental category error that says a farm of land is a capital asset; it is not, it is actually the means by which the farmer earns his or her income.

“In the event of a farmer having to go into a nursing home for a long-stay condition, the lack of an upper limit on the charges the state will make against his or her farm means, effectively, that the whole value of the farm would be ‘eaten up’ by the nursing home charge-contributions.

“The lack of any upper-limit to the contributions charged against the farm means we quickly arrive at a situation where the next generation of farmers will, in many cases, be either forced out of business or forced to borrow unsustainable amounts to buy back their family farm,” the president warned.

“There’s very little point in talking about supporting farm families and then introducing schemes that will have the effect of wiping out the family farm in the unhappy but numerous circumstances where a farmer has to enter a nursing home under Fair Deal for a prolonged period.

“In fairness to the government, the ICMSA believes that this issue has been recognised, but Fair Deal now requires amendment to take account of that recognition,” Comer concluded.