Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has stated that the revised €52m spending estimate of the Department of Agriculture’s TB control programme in 2024 will be monitored and evaluated as the year goes on.

TB costs for the Department amounted to €71.8m last year, with 2024’s estimate representing an almost €15m reduction on this spend and with TB metrics on the rise over recent years.

Minister McConalogue told the Oireachtas agriculture committee that 2023’s spend included a €22m top-up on budget estimations, that the disease programme’s costs will be tracked in 2024 and suggested that, if necessary, further funds could be sought.

“I hope we will see progress in the course of the year [on TB reactors], but there is no doubt there will be pressure on the budget and, if necessary, it is something I will look at again later in the year,” he told TDs.

“This is something I am going to manage as the year evolves, as I did last year. There has been a disappointing and worrying increase in TB reactor rates over the course of the past year.”

TB cost estimates was one of the main areas of the Department’s spending estimates raised by TDs at the committee hearing last Wednesday.

‘Balanced package’

Overall, the Minister referred the revised estimates for his Department’s spending €1.95bn breakdown for 2024 as a “good and balanced package of measures” for farmers and fishers.

These exchequer funds are separate to EU allocations under CAP.

There will be no further Brexit Adjustment Reserve funding allocated by the Department, as this reserve had to be allocated by the end of 2023.

On the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP), Minister McConalogue expects that the “roughly” 19,000 farmer participants will leave the scheme’s budget allocation “fully accounted for” with no room for another tranche.

Interest was also taken by TDs in the amount of carbon tax revenue allocated to the Department to spend on schemes, particularly in relation to whether the tax could give the scope needed to increase the number of Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) places beyond 50,000 farmers.

The Department will receive an estimated €113m in carbon tax revenue over 2024, but this will not be enough to secure further places, according to the Minister.

State agencies

Minister McConalogue also outlined that the 2024’s budget allocations for Bord Bia will amount to €57m, with a further €170m going to Teagasc.

Teagasc’s grant aid figure represents an increase of €6m on 2023 and will see €112m paid out in staff salaries or pensions, €44m to current expenditure and €14m to the body’s capital programme.