Farmers have warned their average income will fall by at least 30% this year due to the combined effect of bad weather and budgetary cutbacks in farm support schemes.
The Irish Farmers’ Association yesterday called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to rule out any further cuts to such schemes in 2013 amid fears that further bad weather over the next month could see incomes drop “substantially higher” than 30%.
IFA president John Bryan said the Government had already overseen disproportionate cuts to farm schemes in last year’s budget and accused Mr Coveney of failing to protect the income of farmers.
The organisation, which represents some 87,000 farmers, is demanding the protection of the funding of farm schemes become a “red-line” issue for Mr Coveney in the negotiations over the upcoming budget in Dec.
The IFA is insisting that funding for schemes such as REPS is maintained at 2012 levels.
It claims the total budget for farm schemes, which can account for over 50% of income of some farmers, had been reduced by 17% this year compared to the average cut of 6% in the Department of Agriculture’s budget and 3.5% across all Government departments.
Mr Bryan said farmers believe they were being unfairly targeted by such cuts.
The IFA leader expressed concern that the extended period of bad weather was having “a huge effect” on farmers’ income due to lower crop and dairy yields, reduced beef and sheep thrive and concern about a poor harvest.
The IFA estimates that farmers could suffer losses of up to €300m this year because of the bad weather and farm scheme cuts.
Mr Bryan said some farmers would face devastation unless the weather picked up soon during the key harvest period.
He claimed farmers were also suffering due to higher input costs, particularly in relation to grain and diesel, as well as falling prices for some commodities.
The IFA claims recent events were likely to reverse the strong growth recorded in farmers’ income since 2010.
A survey conducted by the IFA of 340 farmers at last week’s Tullamore Show revealed that over 40% had had to re-house livestock due to the bad weather.
A quarter of all farmers surveyed reported having to sell stock earlier than planned, while 60% said they had needed to buy extra feedstuff at an average cost of €3,750.
Mr Bryan also reiterated the IFA’s concern about proposals by Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to review existing eligibility rules for third-level education grants.
The IFA said it was vehemently opposed to any changes which might include farm assets in eligibility criteria. Mr Bryan claimed 60% of farmers were already excluded from such grants on the basis of their income.
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