The terms and conditions of the National Reserve included an off farm income limit of €40,000 the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney explained why this week.

Cork TD Noel Harrington asked the Minister this week if it is fair and equitable to apply a figure for gross income of €40,000 in considering applications under the national reserve and young farmers Schemes, and that no consideration is given to income tax, universal social charge, pay related social insurance, mortgage payments, health insurance, the cost of travel to and from employment and married or single status.

The Minister said in response that the application of an off-farm income limit has been included as objective criteria since the introduction of the National Reserve in 2005.

He said the process of deciding objective criteria for the National Reserve is carried out in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which includes members of the main farming bodies and advisory services.

According to the Minister, after consultation with the Committee in recent months and in the context of the limited funding available to the National Reserve, it was decided that an off-farm income limit of €40,000 would be applied to all applicants.

He also said the corresponding off farm income limit under the previous National Reserve was €30,000.

Applicants under the 2015 National Reserve also have the flexibility of choosing either the 2013 or 2014 tax year, whichever is more advantageous.

Minister Coveney said applicants must comply with all eligibility criteria including off-farm income criteria in order to be deemed eligible to qualify for an allocation of entitlements under the National Reserve.

The EU Regulations governing the Young Farmer Scheme do not provide for the inclusion of off farm income as eligibility criteria, he said.