IFA outlines its key desires for Budget 2017

IFA President Joe Healy has said Budget 2017 must increase funding for key farm schemes, alleviate the serious income pressures on family farms, and tackle farm income volatility.

IFA’s farm scheme funding priorities for Budget 2017 include:

  • Funding of €250m for agri-environment schemes, to support 55,000 participants
  • A funding allocation of €60m for the TAMS II programme to meet the demand across all farming sectors for on-farm investment.
  • Introduction of the targeted sheep scheme of €25m, with minimal costs and bureaucracy on farmers, to maximise its benefits.
  • Bringing forward to 2017 the commitment contained in the Programme for Government for an increase of €25m in ANC funding
  • Reopening of the Beef Data and Genomic Programme to allow new participants, with additional funding of €25m to increase support for the suckler cow.

Where taxation is concerned, IFA has identified the introduction of a targeted measure to tackle income volatility through the tax system as a priority in Budget 2017.

IFA is proposing that the income averaging system be adjusted to allow a farmer on averaging, in a year when income falls significantly, to pay the tax due for a single year only.

The deferred tax would then be carried forward and paid over a three-year period.

In order to maximise the number of farmers using income averaging, IFA is calling on the current restrictions on eligibility where the farmer’s spouse is in self-employment to be removed.

Budget 2016 saw the first steps in removing the discrimination of the self-employed in the income tax system with the introduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

IFA recognises the commitment in the Programme for Government to increase this to match the PAYE credit, by 2018.

However, IFA believes that the Government should equalise the credits fully by 2017, to give a direct cash flow boost to farmers and other self-employed.

The organisation also wants farm restructuring relief to be extended beyond 2016 to provide farmers with the opportunity to consolidate their farm holdings.

The importance of Farm Assist

According to IFA, Farm Assist is a vitally important scheme for low-income farm families, particularly in a year like 2016.

The organisation is urging that the Farm Assist income and child disregards that were abolished in recent years be reinstated.

IFA is proposing that the number of places in the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) should be increased from its current number of 2,600 to 4,000, with increased flexibility in regard to eligibility.

Where the Fair Deal Scheme is concerned, IFA has highlighted the need for the government to urgently amend the current assessment of farming assets under the existing measure.

In addition, the charge on productive assets in the Fair Deal Scheme must be reduced to reflect ability to pay, so as to protect the viability of the farm for future generations.

Measures for competitiveness

The agriculture sector is facing significant pressures due to the weakening of Sterling following the Brexit vote.

IFA has also urged the Government to ensure that the budget does not have a further negative impact on competitiveness.

And, it has proposed measures including a temporary reduction in the lower rate of employer’s PRSI for affected sectors.

The organisation is also calling for the provision of low-cost credit for short and longer-term funding requirements and no increase in excise rates on agricultural diesel or other road fuels.