The Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has today (Tuesday, June 13) introduced major new changes to the Farm Assist means test.

A new “income disregard” measure will ensure farmers who participate in agri-environmental schemes will not see their social welfare payments impacted.

The change will be applied to Farm Assist, Jobseeker’s Allowance and State (Non-Contributory) Pensions.

The government is hoping that the move will incentivise more farmers to participate in the schemes.

Grants of up to €2,450 earned through agri-environmental schemes will be disregarded, with the remaining balance assessed at 50%.

For example, a farmer who receives a grant of €2,000 through a scheme would not see any impact on their social welfare payment.

The following schemes, managed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), will qualify for the measure:

  • Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS);
  • Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS);
  • Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS);
  • Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM);
  • Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP);
  • Beef Environmental Efficiency Plan (BEEP-S);
  • Dairy Beef Calf Programme;
  • Results Based Environment Agri-Pilot Programme (REAP);
  • Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS);
  • Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme;
  • Ash Dieback Replanting Scheme;
  • Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (Ash Dieback);
  • Creation of Woodland on Public Lands Scheme;
  • Deer Tree Shelter and Deer/Hare Fencing Scheme;
  • Forestry Grants and Premium Schemes (2014 – 2020);
  • Forest Genetic Resources Reproductive Material Scheme;
  • Forest Road Scheme;
  • Forestry Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme;
  • Central Tyre Inflation Scheme;
  • Native Woodland Conservation Scheme;
  • NeighbourWood Scheme;
  • Woodland Improvement Scheme.

Announcing the income threshold change, Minister Humphreys said:

“I am delighted today to extend the list of agri-environmental schemes that benefit from a social welfare disregard – providing additional certainty to our farming community.

“These measures will benefit thousands of farmers across the country with a maximum disregard of €2,450 being applied,” Humphreys added.

“I also believe by expanding the list of agri-environment schemes, more farmers will participate.

“I would encourage small farmers, particularly, to apply for these schemes in the knowledge that it will not have a negative effect on their social welfare payment,” she stated.

“As Minister for Rural Community Development, and being from rural Ireland myself, I know all too well the critical role our farmers are already playing in Ireland’s response to climate action.

“I hope that will ramp up the take-up of these schemes, which are crucial in supporting our farm sector,” the minister concluded.