The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has told AgriLand that agriculture has done more than its fair share of heavy lifting in terms of taking the financial cuts required to bring the economy back on an even keel.
“We are aware that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney TD had previously committed to securing €54m courtesy of tomorrow’s budget,” an IFA spokesperson added. “But the reality is that cost savings of €50m have already been achieved. This factor alone plus the agreed reduction in the overall budgetary adjustment from €3.1bn down to €2.5bn should mean that agriculture has already secured its commitment to the national financial plan for the next 12 months.”
“Specifically, this means that the Disadvantaged Areas, Agri-Environment and the Sheep Grassland Schemes, must be fully protected in the Budget.”
IFA President John Bryan said the new Budget adjustment also gives the Minister the flexibility to deliver a more substantial suckler cow payment in the Budget as a demonstration of the Government’s commitment to the drystock sector.
He also pointed out that the Minister must also ensure that agri-environment payments for farmers whose contracts finish at the end of the year are allowed a roll-over in 2014.
“It is unacceptable that farmers who have environmental designations and restrictions imposed on them would not have a scheme to compensate them for their losses next year,” Mr Bryan stressed.
“On TAMS, there is a significant underspend and the minister has to introduce immediately greater flexibility for applicants to draw down the funds before the scheme closes at the end of the year.”
Bryan added: “IFA analysis shows that farm schemes have taken the brunt of the Minister’s cuts in recent years. It is time for new investment in primary production, which underpins the jobs and exports in the sector.”
The IFA President went on to point out that tomorrow’s Budget is a real opportunity for the Government to introduce new reliefs to encourage land mobility and farm transfer, which are an essential element of the expansion of the agricultural sector.
IFA has also highlighted the need for Finance Minister Noonan to retain and improve necessary farm tax reliefs, including: the retention of 90 per cent Agricultural Relief and no further reductions in CAT exemption thresholds; maintenance of the Pay & File dates for self-assessment; extension of the land leasing tax exemption scheme to encourage uptake plus land mobility and incentives for dairy farmers to invest in industry expansion.
The IFA is also looking for tax relief for farmers forced to share up with their co-ops to facilitate expansion and have demanded that the 4.8 per cent Vat refund is fully retained.