The Government must deliver on a pledge for a €580m spending plan in October’s budget aimed at stimulating the rural economy.
That’s what the Irish Farmers Asociation (IFA) told the Government yesterday in its detailed 16-page pre-budget submission. The association said the funding must underpin the viability of family farms and provide direct and indirect employment across the entire country.
IFA president, Eddie Downey said achieving a balanced economic recovery, countrywide, must be a key Government objective.
“Throughout the downturn, the primary agriculture and agri-food sector delivered increased employment and export earnings, contributing significantly to our economic recovery. “However, the cuts to farm schemes in successive budgets have had a damaging effect on farm incomes particularly in the vulnerable, low-income dry-stock sectors,” he said.
Mr Downey said choices must be made on funding priorities, and a focus placed on the sectors that can deliver a significant economic return, especially across rural Ireland. He said the Government must deliver on its funding commitment to the Rural Development Programme (RDP). Funding of €580m, which has already been committed as part of the RDP, must be provided for farm schemes.
Mr Downey said this funding will underpin the economic recovery of rural Ireland and will deliver programmes of support for low-income farmers. It will also support the provision of environmental services, encourage young farmers, promote on-farm investment and support farming in marginal areas, he said.
Budget expenditure priorities listed by the IFA include €250m for agri-environment schemes, with full payments for all participants in GLAS (Green Low-Carbon) and AEOS (Options).
Funding of €65m for the suckler-cow herd and an allocation of €15m for the rollout of Knowledge Transfer programmes for farmers across all sectors is also being sought.
A further €40m for the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) and a targeted payment for the ewe flock, requiring a funding allocation of €25m, are other priorities.
The IFA is also seeking an increased allocation for the TB eradication programme, to include consequential loss payments for farmers.
Farm Business chairman, Tom Doyle said Budget 2016 provides an opportunity for the Government to address the structural problems and to build on the productive capacity of the agricultural sector through the taxation system.
The IFA taxation priorities include the introduction of a farm transfer incentive to maximise productive farm capacity and to support two generations through the transfer.
It is also seeking an earned income tax credit for self-employed workers to restore equity in the system.
The IFA says the difference in income tax treatment, between the self-employed and employees, is particularly severe at lower income levels, and must be removed.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved