€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

    Varadkar pledges income tax cuts and more forestry on farms
    An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has addressed tax equality and the role of agriculture in climate change in a speech as Fine Gael party leader.

    An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised to achieve tax equality between self-employed and PAYE workers and singled out on-farm forestry and the modernisation of Bord na Móna as priorities to tackle climate change.

    Speaking at the Fine Gael Árd Fheis in Dublin this Saturday, Taoiseach Varadkar mentioned existing tax and pension measures in favour of farmers and other self-employed workers, but added: "We're not done yet."

    Drawing from the experience of Fine Gael members surrounding him on stage, he first addressed the "hopes and fears for the future" of Kevin, a farmer from Co Leitrim.

    Full equality

    "Now we want there to be full equality for the self-employed and businesspeople when it comes to income tax," he said. "There’s no reason why someone who is self-employed should pay more income tax than those of use who are PAYE."

    The 2016 programme for government committed to increasing the earned income tax credit to €1,650 for the self-employed by 2018, but the recent Budget 2019 fell short of that, at €1,350.

    As he seeks to extend the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil, An Taoiseach pledged to close the gap if Fine Gael stayed in government.

    He also promised to increase the point at which people pay the top rate of tax to €50,000 for a single person, up from €35,300 in Budget 2019, in the interest of "fairness" for those earning average incomes.

    Transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber

    Taoiseach Varadkar said Ireland had to move from "laggard to leader" on climate change. "We must and we will meet our 2030 targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy and we’ll do this by transforming Bord na Móna into a green semi-state generating renewable energy and managing waste rather than generating carbon," he said.

    Another key environmental measure will entail "investing in forestry to transform some of our farms from carbon emitters into carbon sinks that produce timber products which in turn help us to reduce plastics," he added.

    Brexit

    On Brexit, he supported the draft withdrawal agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK. "Let’s seal the deal and let’s get on to the next phase, which is managing the transition period and negotiating a new deep and close relationship with the UK," he said.

    Read more

    Farmers protest fresh forestry expansion in Co Leitrim

    Budget 2019: €200 increase in earned income credit for the self-employed

    Understanding your 2018 tax bill

    ‘Factories need to make a profit’ – An Taoiseach

    Five reasons you need to be at Dairy Day
    The Irish Farmers Journal's Dairy Day takes place in the Punchestown Event Centre from 9am on Tuesday 20 November.

    1. Skills Hub

    The Skills Hub will be running all day. It aims to showcase best practise and the efficiencies required to run a dairy farm in Ireland today.

    2. Calf Shed Talks

    There is no animal more important than the young dairy calf on a farm. Journal vet Tommy Heffernan has a packed schedule of practical demonstrations at the Calf Shed Talks.

    3. Beyond The Parlour sessions

    The Irish dairy industry is vibrant, growing and looking for new opportunities. Where is the future for added value in the dairy chain? What milk prices can farmers expect in five and 10 years time?

    4. Goodie bag

    Get your special show bag with the new Irish Dairy Farmer magazine in it.

    5. KT-approved

    And, best of all it is a Knowledge Transfer-approved event.

    Farmers protest fresh forestry expansion in Co Leitrim
    Protesters call for environmental study before any more conifers are planted in the county.

    Members of the IFA and the Save Leitrim campaign group staged a joint protest at the site of a new forestry plantation in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, on Saturday.

    IFA Leitrim chair James Gallagher told the Irish Farmers Journal that a farm is being planted with conifers at the site, and the IFA will display the same opposition to any new such projects in Co Leitrim until an independent study of the impact of forestry expansion in the county is completed.

    "A resolution from Leitrim went to the IFA national council in September asking that there would be no new plantations without a full environmental survey," Gallagher said.

    Major concern

    After the national council endorsed the resolution at the time, IFA president Joe Healy said that the level of afforestation in recent years, particularly by non-farmers and outside investors, was of major concern to local farmers and rural communities.

    "Leitrim has 18.9% of forest cover at the moment, the highest in the country," Gallagher said. When hilltops and other areas unsuitable for planting are taken out, he estimated that half the agricultural land in the county is now planted.

    "Leitrim will not be the carbon sink for the whole country," he said.

    He added that the IFA was still lobbying for the independent study to be carried out, but this had not started yet.

    Read more

    Forestry dominates Leitrim CAP meeting

    Drystock farmers should plant forestry on their wetter fields – Department

    Afforestation payments to non-farmers doubled in past two years