IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady has said the Budget measures announced this week will have a positive impact on farmers and rural areas and must be fully delivered on.
Joe Brady said the €601m commitment to farm schemes in the 2017 Department of Agriculture allocation is a significant improvement on 2016 and will help in the full utilisation of EU and national funds in the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan (RDP).
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said GLAS should now open shortly to allow the total in the scheme from 1st January next to well exceed 50,000 farmers. The GLAS allocation of €211m for next year must be followed by an allocation of €250m for 2018.
Joe Brady said commitments of €25.6m for Knowledge Transfer and €202m for ANCs, €10m for Organics and €50m for TAMS are a welcome boost to thousands of farmers. The onus is now on the Minster for Agriculture Michael Creed to ensure all funding is spent and paid on time to farmers.
In relation to Farm Assist, Joe Brady said the reversal of cuts to this low farm income scheme is a significant development.
At a meeting during the summer, IFA impressed on the Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar the need to make changes to the criteria assessment to include the 30% income disregard and child disregards. These changes will benefit 8,500 farmers from next March and should allow more low income farmers to qualify. This is particularly relevant given the low income position of many farms as a result of poor farm prices and severe weather conditions in 2016.
The increase in the number of places in the Rural Social Scheme by 500 to a total of 3,100, along with increased allocation to the Leader Programme, the CLAR Programme and the town and village enhanced scheme will be of help to the rural economy, Joe Brady said.
In conclusion, Joe Brady said IFA will be making a case for an increase in ANC payments in line with the ANC review which is due to take place shortly. All farm schemes play a vital role in supporting farm income and supporting the rural economy, particularly in peripheral and disadvantaged areas.