Those are the findings of a study carried out by the Irish Farmers Association and outlined yesterday at a press briefing on the fringes of the Fáilte Ireland Dublin Horse Show.
IFA president Padraig Walshe said the proposed cuts will seriously undermine the positive contribution of agriculture to the rural economy.
They will result in an output reduction for the agri-food sector, an increase in the number of farmers on Farm Assist, a drop in the number of active farmers and an increase in rural unemployment.
He said the analysis underlined the misguided approach taken by the Government-appointed review group.
“Our figures clearly show that increased unemployment in the rural economy, coupled with greater numbers applying for Farm Assist, will cost the exchequer €240m in the form of increased social welfare payments. The cuts proposed by An Bord Snip will save the exchequer just €204m, which is €36m less.”
Mr Walshe said the Government has to recognise the futility of the approach set out by the review group and abandon the proposals.
“This is a particularly difficult time for farm families as prices across all commodities are under pressure.
“Government support for the agri-food sector will be repaid by maintaining production and output, which in turn will help to increase exports and grow jobs,” he said. Mr Walshe said the livestock sector, where individual farmers are facing income cuts of up to 40%, will be particularly impacted through proposed reductions in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), suckler cow and disadvantaged area payments. An estimated 20,000 suckler herds will be lost.
Mr Walshe said there are about 9,000 dairy farmers in REPS, or slightly below 50% of the population of 19,000. He said the IFA analysis, carried out by its chief economist Rowena Dwyer, estimates that 20% of dairy REPS farmers could exit the sector, which would result in a reduction of 10% in the total number of dairy farmers.