€120m extra Department funding to focus on Brexit and farm incomes
Following the Budget 2017 announcement in the Dail, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has outlined details of his Department's €120m increased spend.

On farm challenges such as poor commodity prices and income volatility have informed the shape of the Department of Agriculture's spend for the coming year. It sees expenditure rise to €1.47 billion in addition to the €1.2 billion from the Basic Payment Scheme and greening measure.

Speaking in Dublin this afternoon Creed outlined a three pillar strategy involving the provision of low cost credit, increased investment inside the farm gate, and a set of comprehensive taxation measures.

"To properly address the on-going pressures on farm incomes, a strategic approach is required which seeks to provide solutions not just for today – but that will have a sustained impact over the longer term," Creed said. "Therefore I am bringing forward a comprehensive set of measures which tackle head-on many of the underlying issues undermining farm incomes for some time."

Measures

  • Low Cost Finance: A €150 million SBCI agri-cash flow support loan fund with an interest rate of 2.95% provides highly flexible low cost loans for Irish farmers
  • Support inside the farm gate: Significant spending on farm gate schemes through the Rural Development programme will see €601 million go directly to farmers in 2017 including a new €25 million sheep welfare scheme, increased participation in GLAS, BDGP & TAMS on top of €1.2 billion through the Basic payment/greening measure. Changes to Farm Assist including more favourable eligibility criteria and a €5 weekly increase, 500 extra places on the Rural Social Scheme, and extended social insurance cover for the self-employed including optical and dental cover
  • Tax Measures: Thirdly a dynamic set of tax measures including changes to the ‘income averaging system’, a €400 increase in the ‘Earned Income Tax Credit’ and further consideration of an income stabilisation measure completes the three pillar approach to strategically tackling income volatility”
  • Brexit

    "From providing access to an innovative low interest agri-cash flow fund of €150 million, to agri-taxation measures designed to strategically smooth income fluctuations, Budget 2017 provides a robust, pre-emptive response to the Brexit challenge," Creed said. "In Budget 2017, through increased funding of Bord Bia and BIM, investment in R&D and innovation, initiatives such as increasing the definition limit for micro-brewers to 40,000 hectolitres, we are putting forward practical solutions for businesses.

    "€85.5m investment is provided for our vital food safety and animal health measures, which among other things underpin our access to EU and global markets."

    Rural Development Programme

    "Overall, for 2017, I’m allocating €601 million for investment in the Rural Development Programme – up from €494m in 2016 – an increase of over 21%," said Creed. "This will allow for the re-opening of GLAS to 12,000 more participants as well as BDGP & TAMS, the introduction of a new €25 million sheep welfare scheme and the payment of €25 million through the Knowledge Transfer Scheme."

    Summary of RDP measures:

  • €241.7 million for agri-environmental schemes (Incl AEOS/GLAS/ REPS Organics)
  • €202 million for Areas of Natural Constraint
  • €52 million for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme
  • €50 million for Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS)
  • €25.6 million for Knowledge Transfer Programme
  • €25 million for the Animal Welfare Scheme for Sheep
  • Read more

    Full coverage: Budget 2017

    Farmers asked to be vigilant for forest fires
    The Forest Service has issued a condition orange fire risk warning for the Easter bank holiday weekend.

    Forest owners, farmers and rural dwellers have been asked to be extremely vigilant this weekend for any forest fire activity and to report any suspicious or illegal activity to the gardaí.

    The Forest Service has issued a condition orange fire warning as a result of easterly high pressure conditions and forecast high temperatures.

    High fire risk

    These conditions mean that a high fire risk exists in all areas where hazardous fuels such as gorse, heather, dried grasses and other dead vegetation exist.

    The projected meteorological fire risk is likely to be further compounded by additional ignition risks arising from the forthcoming Easter bank holiday weekend.

    A statement from the Forest Service said that most recent fire incidents appear to have taken place on lands associated with turf cutting, but additional risks may also exist on areas commonly used for public recreation.

    “On this basis, the highest degree of vigilance is warranted by forest owners and managers during the long weekend. Fire risk is expected to peak significantly on Monday 22 April 2019,” it said.

    Pending significant rainfall, this risk condition will remain in place until 12pm on Tuesday 23 April unless otherwise stated by the Department.

    Be on alert

    All forest owners and managers are again advised to prepare for likely outbreaks of fire.

    Recent weeks have seen significant fire activity and losses in forestry.

    Fire lines, fire plans and fire suppression equipment should be reviewed and made ready and other relevant contingencies such as insurance, helicopter contracts, etc, checked and confirmed.

    The advice is if you see a fire, do not delay; report it to the fire and emergency services straight away by calling 999 or 112.

    People who make the call will not be billed by the fire service or local authority.

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    How to be a good employer in the agriculture industry
    David Wilson reports on management consultant Nollaig Heffernan’s advice for farmers when recruiting and working with staff.

    With a labour shortage causing problems in many areas of the agriculture sector, management consultant Nollaig Heffernan had some timely advice for farmers at the recent Irish Pig Health Society’s symposium.

    Heffernan is a specialist in leadership and organisational psychology and spoke about what it takes to become an employer that can attract and retain highly talented workers.

    She told farmers that becoming an employer of choice, where you can pick and choose who you hire, is something that takes a few years to build towards.

    She outlined areas where employers need to assess in relation to their current and future staff.

    Role clarity

    Lack of role clarity is the leading cause of job dissatisfaction in the workplace.

    Unhappy workers will ask themselves things like 'what am I doing here' and 'what do I contribute'.

    In toxic businesses, it is common that employees feel that they were lied to - that they came in thinking they were doing one thing and end up doing something vastly different.

    This creates an insecurity and workers may feel worried about being found out, a thing in psychology called the imposter phenomenon.

    Without clear and defined roles, stress and anxiety are immediately caused in the workplace.

    Business awareness

    A lot in companies lack business awareness, in terms of what they actually need.

    Hiring is often a knee-jerk reaction and employers often just take what they can get.

    If you just hire what you can get, it’s usually not what you want.

    It is really important to understand what is required in your business.

    Take a look at where the business is going, its aims and what resources are needed to meet these aims.

    Look internally

    Employers can be very good at looking outside for solutions when actually promoting the people inside is usually the better option and is very cost effective.

    Look at people who are already in your business first; they might be aiming to push on and work in a higher role.

    Even if there are no vacancies, it may be no harm to sit down with each employee and get to know their ambitions – ask them where they see themselves in five years. This way you can plan for the future.

    Farming and the agriculture sector in general has a low tolerance for bringing in new people into the system, especially people from non-farming backgrounds.

    Heffernan said that farmers, because they’ve been farming all their life, they don’t even know what they know innately.

    This causes huge frustration when someone new doesn’t pick it up straight away.

    Realise that getting the best out of people takes time, communication and tolerance, she advised.

    When you bring people into your business, make sure you are ready and able to facilitate them.

    While it is important to show common sense and decency to new workers, keeping them accountable is important.

    If you want to protect your business objectives, you need to micro manage from the beginning and set standards.

    Continuous improvement

    A good employer sees their staff as an asset and not a cost.

    People treat assets as valuable and ideally want to sell them on at a higher price than what they got it for.

    Employers often are afraid to invest in their staff, as they are afraid they will move to a higher role elsewhere.

    This may be true to a certain extent, but even so, if your business is seen as a place where employees can better themselves, you will have people wanting to work for you and you are moving your business towards being employers of choice.

    Offer alternatives

    A basic business technique of a SWOT analysis can help.

    Look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business.

    The agricultural industry is a difficult industry as it is, before taking into account isolated locations, poor internet access or long working hours.

    But these factors are the reality and can’t be changed easily, so as an employer you must look at what you can offer to override these problems.

    It is up to you to generate interest. Think things like flexible work hours, incentives to work during unsocial times, consistent work patterns or progression opportunities.

    Be inquisitive

    Look at other businesses. Look at the way they do things and what they are offering.

    Don’t be afraid to communicate and question your employees about their work life.

    Ask them what is their deal breaker - the one thing that would make them leave straight away.

    Everyone has a deal breaker and they’re usually small things you can control such as respect or inclusion.

    Word of mouth is probably the best method for hiring.

    Take your time to ask your staff if they know anyone who would like to work for you.

    They won’t want to let their own reputation down and will hire someone they think will be more than capable for the role.

    Read more

    What do employers and employees want on a farm?

    Easter weekend: hazy with highs of 23°C in parts
    Easter weekend is forecast to be warm, with hazy sunshine and temperatures to hit the low 20s.

    Friday

    Friday will be a dry day, becoming warm in many areas with hazy sunshine. Met Éireann has said that afternoon temperatures could reach 18°C to 22°C or even 23°C.

    It will be cooler on southern and eastern coasts, becoming possibly misty with temperatures of 15°C to 17°C. Winds will be light southerly or variable.

    It will be misty everywhere on Friday night with fog developing in many areas. Lowest temperatures will range between 6°C and 9°C in near calm conditions.

    Saturday

    Saturday is forecast to stay warm and dry in most areas again, with sunshine developing after the clearance of mist and fog.

    However, Met Éireann has said it will stay cloudy in Connacht and west and north Ulster with perhaps some drizzle there along the coast.

    Afternoon temperatures will range from 15°C or 16°C in the northwest to between 17°C and 22°C elsewhere. Winds will be light and variable.

    There will be extensive mist and fog on Saturday night, with patchy drizzle in parts of the west and north, again in near calm conditions.

    Sunday

    Easter Sunday is shaping up to be a dry day in many areas. The overnight mist and fog will burn off and spells of hazy sunshine will develop, especially in the midlands and east.

    However, thickening cloud may bring some scattered rain to southwestern, western and northwestern coastal fringes during the evening or more likely overnight.

    Highest temperatures on Sunday are expected to vary between 15°C and 20°C, the highest of which will be in the midlands and east in a moderate southerly breeze, freshening along the west coast later.

    Monday

    The current indications for Monday suggest a breezier day especially on the west coast. It is forecast to be rather cloudy over western areas with the risk of some rain at times.

    It will be brighter elsewhere, with sunny spells and just an outside risk of a few showers breaking out later in the day. Temperatures will still be above normal with highs of 14°C to 18°C or 19°C, the highest of which will be in eastern areas.

    Read more

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