Cautious welcome of budget proposals by INHFA

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have given a cautious endorsement of the budget proposals announced yesterday. The announcement of an additional €179m for agriculture can, stated INHFA President Colm O’Donnell “provide a significant boost for the sector provided this money gets into farmers pockets.”

On the outgoing measures O’Donnell welcomed the roll-over of GLAS which he stated “will provide a level of certainty for the 25,000 farmers in the final year of their contracts. However, clarity must be provided by the DAFM with regard to possible penalties if a farmer is deemed to have breached their contract in the roll-over year and also for farmers with leased land where their lease is now expiring.”

In welcoming proposals to pilot the new REPS Mark ll the farm leader stressed “how the success of this will be determined by the make-up of the scheme. He outlined how the organisation is currently engaging with our branch network in the development of a workable scheme. Further clarity on the €79m announced is needed before we can determine how many farmers can join in 2021. We will also need to assess what level of payment will be available to them and whether the €10m of this announced for the tillage sector will be part of the REPS pilot, or will it be the basis of a separate scheme.”

On direct support for the suckler and sheep sectors O’Donnell expressed disappointment that more direct support was not forthcoming. While accepting the positives of ensuring continued support here, we will he stated “see an increasing number of suckler and sheep farmers that may have changed enterprise or increased stock numbers not catered for. This is very apparent in the sheep welfare scheme where the €17m announced will we expect only to cover existing flock owners.”

With regard to the €40m proposed for the new Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot Scheme it will he added “be vital that this scheme accommodates small scale suckler farmers and we will be putting forward proposals to ensure this happens”

On the announcement of the increased allocation to Bord Bia it does he maintained “take away any excuse for not aggressively pursuing the development of a naturally reared suckler brand which can have long-term benefits for our suckler sector.”
For farmers with designated lands O’Donnell pointed to the increased budget allocation for the Department of Heritage and outlined how we will be seeking clarity on where this money is going and how much if any can farmers that have this burden imposed on them expect to get.

In the proposals to spend €221m for residential and community retrofit schemes there is maintained the INHFA President “an opportunity here to address the crisis in the sheep sector with regard to the wool price which is at an all-time low. As a natural product, wool makes an excellent insulation material and if we get some joined up thinking there is an opportunity here.”

In concluding O’Donnell outlined his concern on the increase in the carbon tax. Those of us living in rural areas will be disproportionately impacted by this tax which will increase the cost of motoring which is why we are calling for the Government to review it.”