Throughout the downturn, the primary agriculture and agri-food sector has delivered increased employment and export earnings.
It has contributed significantly to economic recovery and the maintenance of economic activity and employment across all parts of Ireland. However, the cuts to farm schemes in successive budgets have had a damaging effect on farm incomes, notably 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 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 be a success, farmers will have to be properly rewarded for their work and investment. The report identifies what farmers have to do, 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 gives a strong justification for the reversal of cuts to farm schemes and full implementation of new schemes under the 2014 — 2020 Rural Development Programme.
IFA is clear that, in Budget 2016, the Government must deliver 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 provision of environmental services, encourage young farmers, promote on-farm investment and support farming in marginal areas. Expenditure priorities for farming in Budget 2016 are:
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:
Budget cuts of the last seven years also have impacted negatively on the ability of Government agencies and Department of Agriculture offices to deliver support services to the primary agriculture sector, in the areas of research, advisory, education, promotion, and animal health.
In Budget 2016 and future Budgets, resources must be prioritised towards increasing service provision through increased personnel and capacity in the agencies and sections responsible for supporting the development and growth of the primary agriculture sector, including Teagasc, Bord Bia, ICBF, AHI, and the veterinary laboratories.
This will be critical to maintaining and building upon the important contribution of agriculture and the agri-food sector to economic recovery and growth.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved