Maintaining farm schemes must be ‘red line issue’

IFA President John Bryan has commented that, with mounting bad weather costs and Government cuts hitting hard, Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, must rule out any further cuts in farm schemes in 2013.

IFA President John Bryan has commented that, with mounting bad weather costs and Government cuts hitting hard, Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, must rule out any further cuts in farm schemes in 2013.

John Bryan warned Minister Coveney that the Government’s disproportionate cuts in farm schemes in last year’s budget leave him with “no justification whatsoever” for any further reduction in spending on these measures.

“Minister Coveney must make protection for funding of farm schemes a red line issue in this budget”.

John Bryan said, “Farmers have been unfairly targeted for disproportionate cuts when compared with the overall Agriculture Budget and other Government Departments”.

“Minister Coveney cannot escape the fact that this Government has presided over cuts in farm schemes of 17% in 2012, which is almost 3 times the 6% cut applied across the entire Agriculture Budget, and far in excess of the 3.5% cut taken across all Government Departments”.

John Bryan said, “Following two years of growth, farming is experiencing a very difficult year in 2012. A combination of dreadful weather, soaring input costs and falling prices in some commodities, is impacting on profitability and output at farm level.”

“Against this background, the cuts in farm schemes are really biting hard especially on thousands of low income farmers. If the current bad weather continues, farm incomes could well be back by more than 30%”.

A major IFA survey on the impact of this summer’s bad weather, conducted at last Sunday’s Tullamore Show, has shown that costs have increased and production is down in all sectors. Over 40% of those surveyed have had to rehouse livestock, more than 25% have had to sell stock earlier than planned and almost 60% have purchased extra feed concentrates, at an average additional cost of €3,750. Over 90% indicated that the weather has negatively impacted on their production, with more than 60% estimating a production loss of greater than 10%.

With many farmers under cashflow pressures, John Bryan called on Minister Coveney to ensure that all payments including the EU Single Farm Payment are paid on time and that inspections do not hold up payments. The IFA President also stressed that the Banks, which are mostly Government-controlled, must provide the necessary facilities for farmers and their suppliers to cope with the additional feed costs and usage over the winter months.

John Bryan concluded, “In the context of the serious difficulties being experienced in 2012, and the disproportionate cuts already imposed on farm schemes, Minister Coveney must prioritise the maintenance of funding for farm schemes in the upcoming budget. I want to be absolutely clear with Minister Coveney, this means full funding is required for REPS/AEOS, including a new AEOS3 Scheme, with retention of funding for Disadvantaged Areas (DAs), the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, the Targeted Agricultural Measures (TAMs) and Forestry.