The Food Ombudsman funding “must be used as a stepping stone to giving the office the powers of a regulator, which is contingent on additional legislation”, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Dermot Kelleher said.

€4 million was allocated in yesterday’s budget to fully establishing the Food Ombudsman.

‘Drive forward’ Food Ombudsman establishment

While the ICSA welcomes this announcement, Kelleher said that he is “unhappy that the process is taking longer than it should”.

He is now calling on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to “drive forward with the establishment of the office by early 2022”.

Kelleher said the expenditure side of the budget was “distinctly unimpressive when it comes to the schemes for 2022”, but that the “key issue is now to ensure that the government delivers full co-financing of the CAP rural development programme to 2027”.

“More importantly, Minister McConalogue must make a clear statement about how the €1.5 billion carbon tax promised in the Programme for Government will be allocated,” he continued.

“We are still unclear about the spending spread over the next few years. ICSA wants to see much more ambition in the agri-environment expenditure.

“It is essential that we have more farmers in the pilot REAP next year and that this is a stepping stone to delivering a €15,000 agri-environment scheme in the new CAP from 2023 onwards.” 

Zoned land tax

The ICSA president has also expressed concern over the zoned land tax, saying that it “must provide an exemption for land which is actively farmed”.

“While this should really apply only in the cities where there are a lot of brownfield sites, the problem is that there is land which is being farmed which happens to be zoned on the periphery of towns and villages.

“This land should not be taxed because it is not critical to solving the housing crisis where it is most acute – in the big cities. Moreover, it should not be taxed because this is not speculative property, it is land that is being productively used to produce food.” 

The ICSA president said that the extension of stock reliefs (to the end of 2024) and young farmer stamp duty exemption (to the end of 2022) is welcome, “but it is time to examine how to provide long-term certainty for these kinds of important reliefs”.

“There is no long-term certainty about reliefs such as the Capital Gains Tax relief on Farm Consolidation, and the stamp duty exemptions as well as stock relief,” Kelleher said.

“All these tax measures are not contentious; there is universal agreement that the economic benefits in terms of supporting the next generation of farmers and the support for improved productivity and efficiency outweigh minor costs to the exchequer.”