FARMER fury over Government cutbacks in the sector was aired at the first of a series of countrywide meetings in Claremorris, County Mayo, last night.
The Irish Farmers’ Association warned that its campaign would “expose the Government’s outrageous and disproportionate attack on the farming community”.
Up to 1,000 farmers from all over the west of Ireland heard IFA president, Padraig Walshe, declare that there is mounting anger among farmers over the cutbacks.
He said cuts amounting to €400 million in various farm scheme were “a totally unjustifiableattack” on the sector, hitting 60,000 low-income farmers hardest.
Further meetings are planned for Cootehill, Co Cavan, next Tuesday; Dunmanway next Friday; and Blarney and Letterkenny on November 3.
Mr Walshe said he was urging farmers to attend these meetings and vent their anger over the way the farming sector has been targeted for large scale income cuts.
He said the cut in disadvantaged areas payments directly hit the incomes of 40,000 farmers and contravened Government commitments that the weakest groups would not be targeted in the budget.
“The Government’s attack on the 54,000 farmers participating in the suckler welfare scheme comes as a further blow, hitting many of these same farmers on the double,” he said.
He added that the disadvantaged areas and suckler scheme cutbacks combined are a devastating blow, wiping up to 11% off the incomes of thousands of low income farm families, depending on cattle and sheep in the most economically fragile areas of the country.
Young farmers were gutted by the shelving of the Installation Aid scheme he said.
“Our industry needs young trained farmers to take over from their parents and the axing of the retirement scheme has thrown the succession plans of hundreds of farm families into disarray,” he said On the 1% income levy, Mr Walshe said “the blatant discrimination” against farmers’ must be removed by allowing normal depreciation and investment allowances to be deducted from gross income.
“These cuts are unacceptable and I am determined that councillors and TDs in the Government parties will be held to account,” he said.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith has said however that the total budget expenditure on agriculture, fisheries and food next year will exceed 3.2 billion.
This figure is made up of a 1.8bn provision in the estimates for his Department and a further 1.4bn billion in EU funding.
“The choices I have made and the decisions taken are aimed at protecting the most productive elements of the sector and ensuring that it continues to prosper,” he said.
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