Farmers reeling as Budget axes core schemes

Farmers are reeling following cuts announced in yesterday’s budget to the Suckler Cow Scheme, the Sheep Grassland Management payment, and the non-renewal of the stamp duty relief on land transfers for young, trained farmers.

IFA president, John Bryan, said the cuts to schemes, and the extra taxes and PRSI changes, would hit farmers hard and would place further pressure on families whose incomes have dropped 22% this year.

Mr Bryan said: “Suckler and sheep farmers have an average income of €14,000, and some of them will be forced out of business, or onto Farm Assist, by the minister’s decision to effectively close the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and cut the sheep grassland payment.”

Mr Bryan said the payment cuts would result in limited uptake of the Beef Breeding Programme, and said Minister Coveney must revisit this decision and commit to maintaining the suckler cow herd.

Minister Coveney said his department had reorientated and rescheduled payments to ensure that farm scheme cuts were kept to €89m, versus the €114m in cuts demanded by the Department of Finance.

He said the voted expenditure for 2013, of €1.25bn, was comprised of €1.057bn in current expenditure and €193m in capital expenditure.

Minister Coveney said: “I was pleased to secure an increased capital allocation, in 2013, of some €25m from the Department of Finance, in a period of very scarce resources. This enables a meaningful capital programme to be undertaken, including funding for 7,000 h/a of new forest planting.”

Minister Coveney said his priorities were to protect the incomes of farm families, and to retain supports for small-farm holdings in disadvantaged areas. He cited tax measures to fund new research, and investment in food safety and animal health and welfare controls.

Macra president, Alan Jagoe, welcomed the extension, for three years, of the 100% stock relief for young trained farmers, its broadening to non-dairy partnerships (50% stock relief), and 90% agricultural relief for capital acquisitions tax.

However, he said he was “dismayed” that the stamp duty relief on land transfers for young trained farmers was not renewed.

Mr Jagoe said: “This all-important trigger mechanism, that resulted in most family farms being transferred before a farmer’s 35th birthday, was an essential and well-established measure to effect the early transfer of farms to the next generation.”

ICMSA president, John Comer, said that, taken as a whole, farmers and the wider agri-sector would see the budget as regressive and to have added to problems facing farmers.

Mr Comer said that while the introduction of roll-over relief for CGT purposes, in relation for farm restructuring, was a welcome development, the reduction in the thresholds for CAT and the increased rate to 33% would act as a barrier to farm transfer. The cut in the VAT rebate, from 5.2% to 4.8%, would also directly impact on farm incomes in 2014, he said.


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