Budget must reflect mission projected in Food Wise 2025 plan

As part of the build-up to Budget 2016 next month, the IFA will meet this week with the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.

It will be an opportunity for us to remind them that agriculture has contributed significantly to our recovery, and economic activity and employment across all parts of the country.

However, the cuts to farm schemes in successive budgets have had a damaging effect on farm incomes, particularly in the vulnerable, low-income drystock sectors.

Actions to improve farm profitability, both within and outside the farm gate, must be prioritised by all stakeholders in the agri-food sector if we are to deliver on the ambitious targets for export and employment growth outlined in the new 10-year strategy, Food Wise 2025.

As an aside, for the new agri-strategy to succeed, farmers will have to be properly rewarded for their work and investment.

The report identifies what is expected of farmers, but does not place any onus on Government and other stakeholders to deliver a fair return to primary producers. This needs to be addressed if the ambitious targets are to be achieved.

The recovery evident in the public finances and the measurable contribution of agriculture and the agri-food sector to economic recovery provides a strong justification for the reversal of cuts to farm schemes, and full implementation of new schemes under the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme.

The IFA is clear that the Government must deliver in Budget 2016 on its funding commitment to the Rural Development Programme.

Funding of €580m must be provided for RDP farm schemes in this October’s budget, the requirements for which are outlined below.

This funding will deliver programmes of support for low-income farmers, support the provision of environmental services, encourage young farmers, promote on-farm investment and support farming in marginal areas. Expenditure priorities for farming in Budget 2016:

  • Funding of €220m must be allocated for agri-environment schemes in Budget 2016, with full payments for all GLAS and AEOS participants;
  • A targeted payment for the ewe flock, requiring a funding allocation of €25m in Budget 2016.
  • Full-year payments under the Suckler Beef Genomic scheme must be provided for all qualifying animals in Budget 2016.
  • That funding of €15m is allocated for the rollout of knowledge transfer programmes across all sectors in 2016;
  • Funding of €40m is allocated to the TAMS II programme in 2016, to cater for all sectors; and
  • An increased funding allocation for the TB Eradication Programme, to include increased consequential loss payments for farmers to align the level of support with actual income foregone.

The outcome of the comprehensive review of agri-taxation in 2014, undertaken jointly by the Departments of Finance and Agriculture, represented real progress, with the retention, enhancement and targeting of key measures to improve land mobility, farm restructuring and promote on-farm investment.

Budget 2016 provides an opportunity for the Government to further build upon the measures arising from the agri-taxation review. Taxation priorities for farming in Budget 2016 are:

  • Introduction of an income tax incentive for families who farm in partnership for a given time period, at the end of which time the farm is transferred to the next generation;
  • Introduction of an earned income tax credit for self- employed workers to restore equity in the income tax system. The difference in income tax treatment between the self-employed and employees is particularly severe at lower income levels, and must be removed;
  • Retention of 90% agricultural relief for farm transfers and adjustment of CAT thresholds to reflect asset price changes; and
  • Extension of the stamp duty young trained farmers exemption and stock relief measures past their current expiry dates of December 31, 2015.


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