Sinn Féin has proposed increasing investment in the Farm Assist income by €6m, with an income disregard of 50% and the rollover of all CAP Pillar 2 Schemes at the current rates.

The party’s alternative budget includes €25m to be spent on Areas of Natural Constraint and an increased investment of €15m to be spent on organic farming.

It promises to deliver a suckler payment of up to €300 per cow/calf pair at a cost to the taxpayer of €107m and to increase the Sheep Welfare Scheme for farmers by €10-€20 per ewe at a cost of €17m.

The proposals presented at a press conference in Dublin on Thursday also include an increase in the animal welfare budget to €1.8m.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson for agriculture, Matt Carthy, commented on the proposals:

Suckler Payment

“Our budget would deliver a suckler cow payment of €300 on the first 15 cow/calf pairs per farm, €150 on the next 15 and €80 for a further 70.

“We would, of course, prevent the distortion of the market by inferior beef products, so we would reject EU trade deals such as the Mercosur Agreement that would displace this product with environmentally damaging beef from abroad."

Beef regulator

“We would establish the Office of the Independent Meat Regulator, ensure that it is adequately staffed and launch an information campaign to apprise farmers on their rights, and encourage them to report unfair trading practices in the confidence that action will be taken to address them.

“In further support of our beef farmers, we would also immediately begin the work to secure a dedicated suckler Protected Geographic Indicator (PGI) to ensure that this premium product yields a premium price."

Sheep farmers

“Sinn Féin would double the Sheep Welfare Scheme payment to €20 per breeding ewe.

“Ongoing depressed prices today and risks to animal welfare require adequate response immediately, and Sinn Féin’s alternative budget provides for an emergency €5m “woolen sector” aid package in 2022."

Organics and Forestry

“In our alternative budget, Sinn Féin provides for an unparalleled investment in organics in 2022, delivering €15m in new investment to dramatically accelerate conversion and provide ring-fenced funding for organics in state agencies such as Bord Bia, while seeking to reform the scheme to remove conditions that discourage participation.

“We would also redirect resources in the Department to address the current crisis in the forestry sector, to resolve the current licensing backlog while also ensuring that the new forestry strategy promotes the planting of native broad-leaf forestry and incentivises new farmers to enter afforestation."

Agri environmental scheme

“Sinn Féin would expand places on the Results-Based Environment-Agri Pilot Project (REAP ) scheme to over 11,000 in 2022, while seeking to address the remaining deficiencies in advance of the new agri-environmental scheme in 2023.

“Irish farmers have been clear that they want a REPS-type scheme that is accessible, that incentivises necessary climate measures and is rewarding for participants, without unnecessary bureaucracy."

Areas of Natural Constraint

“Sinn Féin would increase the budget for Areas of Natural Constraint next year by €25m and deliver this through targeted front-loaded payments."

Farm Assist

“We have secured a commitment that Sinn Féin would increase the income disregards to 50% at a cost of €6m euro, in line with similar supports, while Farm Assist recipients would also benefit from our pledge to increase all working age social welfare payments rates by €10."

Delivering change for family farmers

“Our alternative budget measures are additional to all pre-committed expenditure, including funding provided for ELS, and commits to the roll-over of all CAP Pillar 2 schemes at current rates.

“In our promise to put families and workers first, we recognise family farmers as a core component. Our alternative budget reflects that.

“Those budget measures proposed by Sinn Féin, if coupled with maximum redistributive measures in the roll-out of the next CAP, could provide the basis in which to provide a secure future for our farming communities, the environment and wider rural Ireland,” he concluded.