#Budget2019: ‘Big business over family farms’, says ICMSA president

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

ICMSA president, Pat McCormack

ICMSA president, Pat McCormack

THE ICMSA president said that people in farming can only conclude from the Budget that the Government has decided it “doesn’t want to support farm families”.

“It simply does not understand the scale of the challenges being faced by the farming sector, either in terms of the 50% fall in income predicted for this current year or the transformational challenges that could follow Brexit next March. Farm families can only conclude that the Government has decided that it doesn’t want to support farm families and the agenda now seems to be about enhancing the position of corporate structures and big business over family farms,” said Pat McCormack, who added that he was reluctant to come to this position. 

“But it is the only logical conclusion to arrive at based on the Budget. Introducing new schemes with more conditions and more inspections along with tweaks of existing schemes won’t solve the massive underlying problems and is simply ‘throwing shapes’ rather than providing real solutions for the farming community

“The biggest single-issue facing family farms is income volatility and, as sole traders, the taxation system absolutely hammers farmers trying to make a living in an extremely volatile global food market. ICMSA and others have consistently highlighted this. As a matter of fact, Minister Creed acknowledged this following the last two Budgets and it is extremely disappointing that he has failed yet again to deliver for farm families on this matter,” said Mr McCormack.

The ICMSA president continued: “We have corporate structures in Ireland and ‘big business’ paying effective tax rates of 1% and yet our Government cannot bring in a simple measure to assist farm families to establish a volatility fund under the supervision of the Revenue Commissioners that could be utilised for difficult years. One would now have to question at this stage the level of priority that agriculture is getting around the cabinet table.”

IFA president Joe Healy wasn’t as damning. In what has been a very challenging year for farmers, he said the Budget was some acknowledgment of the income difficulties in agriculture, but the “upcoming major issues of Brexit and CAP will require much more Government commitment and support for farming”.

Mr Healy said the funding of €20m through a pilot scheme for suckler farmers was a recognition of the income crisis in the sector, but the “level of funding was disappointing and more needed to be done to help sustain the suckler herd”.

He said it is essential the new measures are farmer friendly.

The increased ANC funding of €22.7m, to bring the allocation to €250m, was positive and reverses the cuts imposed on the lowest income farmers in previous budgets, said Mr Healy.

“The €200 increase in the earned income tax credit to €1,350 does not go far enough. The Government continues to discriminate between employees and self-employed in the income tax system. It is simply not right that a farmer earning €16,500 will be paying €300 a year more in income tax than a PAYE employee next year,” said Mr Healy.