Fitzmaurice: How much of €179 million DAFM boost will end up in farmers’ pockets?

Middle Ireland and those living in rural Ireland have been forgotten in Budget 2021, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Reacting to the announcement of the budget yesterday (Tuesday, October 13), the Roscommon-Galway representative also noted that farmers will see little or no benefit as a result of the measures.

He said: “While an increase of €179 million for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s budget has been announced, how much of that will actually end up in farmers’ pockets?

“Almost €30 million is going toward additional staff and funding for Bord Bia in respect of Brexit and related infrastructure. €88 million is going towards Covid-related supports, with a €45 million beef scheme outlined as part of this.

But this is just a re-branding of the BEEP/BEEP-S [Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Suckler] schemes that have been around of late, with an emphasis on carbon efficiency.

“€79 million is set to be spent on new agri-environmental and other farm support measures, which will – it is thought – be aimed at farmers not currently enrolled in other agri-environment schemes.”

It is expected that €20 million of this funding will come from revenue generated from the carbon tax, the independent TD noted.

“But this REPS [Rural Environmental Protection Scheme] style pilot scheme has been promised for months.

“While the roll-over of GLAS [Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme], ANC [Areas of Natural Constraint], BDGP [Beef Data Genomics Programme] and the Sheep Welfare Scheme payments is welcomed, the announcement doesn’t go far enough to support a sector which provides in the region of 300,000 jobs.

“I supported calls by Minister McConalogue, when he was in the opposition benches, for supports for suckler farmers – namely a €200 per cow payment. But this has been forgotten about now that he has taken up his ministerial position.

Whatever slight benefits farmers, rural dwellers or the people of Ireland may enjoy will be far exceeded by the impact of the increase in carbon tax by €7.50/t.

“It is forecast that auto diesel prices will increase by approximately 1.5c/L and that agri diesel [green diesel] will jump by 2c/L,” deputy Fitzmaurice said.

“The hike in diesel prices will leave farmers further out of pocket, as agricultural contractors will be forced to pass on the jump by increasing their own prices.

“Given that agricultural contractors carry out the bulk of the heavy lifting on the majority of farms, these increases will not be insignificant – particularly in a sector when margins are already tight.

This is all the more frustrating, given that rural Ireland and farmers will be asked to be at the forefront of reducing emissions and tackling climate change in the future when it comes to agri-environmental measures and acting as a carbon sink for the rest of the country.

“For those living in middle Ireland, earning in the region of €30,000 per annum, there doesn’t seem to be any benefits. Even if they wanted to retrofit their homes, the incentives aren’t enough to cover the bulk of the work.

“The only differences they will see are increased fuel costs for their cars and a higher bill when it comes to filling their home heating oil tanks,” deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.