INHFA welcomes support for sheep but disappointed with overall budget

The President of the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) Vincent Roddy has welcomed the budget announcement of an additional €8/ewe to be paid through the Sheep Improvement Scheme. Additional support for this sector is, he stated “something we have consistently pushed the Minister on and while we welcome the announcement we must recognise that this can only be seen as a starting point.”

On this basis there is, he added “an urgent need to look again at the Brexit Adjustment Reserve and other similar sources with a view to delivering an additional payment of €30/ewe that can be made available for all sheep farmers. “

Beyond the long awaited and much needed support for the sheep sector the overwhelming view of the budget is one of disappointment. While Minister Donohue detailed an overall spend in Agriculture of €1.9b that includes €700m for Agri-environmental support the important detail is much harder to decipher.

In ACRES we are looking at an additional spend of €32m which in Minister Donohue’s own words will support 50,000 farmers. This the INHFA president maintained “will accommodate an additional 4,000 farmers which we believe could be 15,000 short of where we need to be. On this basis it is vital that the Government find additional new money if the uptake exceeds 50,000 to ensure all farmers are supported through this scheme.”

For suckler farmers while additional State funding is being provided, this will replace support from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve so for these farmers there won’t be any monetary gain. Here, similar to the sheep sector it is stressed Roddy “vital that the Government seek additional funding to support an extensive suckler sector, that is vital to our rural economy and critical in delivering on the challenges around biodiversity and climate change.”

A final aspect in Budget 2024 relates to the Infrastructure Climate and Nature Fund. With a budget allocation of €14b by 2030 it is, stated the INHFA President “critical that we get a full understanding of this fund in terms of how it will be funded but more importantly what it will be used for. As we face radical changes around land use driven by the Nature Restoration Law and proposals to increase the area of land under forestry there is a real concern that this fund could be used to take large areas of land out of agricultural use.”