Investment in Agriculture Vital for Economic Growth, IFA Tells Ministers at Pre-budget Meeting

IFA President John Bryan today (Fri) led a delegation to a pre-Budget meeting with the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and the Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, at which he said Government support for agriculture is critical for the rural economy and economic growth.

He said, “The positive growth in the agri-food sector seen in 2010 has continued into 2011, with output growth in primary agriculture and food exports far outpacing the rest of the economy. Despite an overall drop in the last quarter, agri-food exports remain strong. However, farming remains a low-income sector, with average farm incomes in 2010 less than €18,000, and tens of thousands of farm families depend on the farm schemes for viability.”

Mr Bryan said, “As it finalises Budget 2012, the Government must prioritise funding for the sectors that are growing, and have the potential to contribute further to economic growth. Agriculture requires Government investment through funding for farm schemes, which are a critical support for farm income and production. The retention of key taxation reliefs to support farm transfer, land mobility and investment are also vital.”

“Farm incomes have been directly hit by cuts in funding to farm schemes in previous budgets. Like other taxpayers, farm families have been negatively affected by increases in personal taxation in recent budgets and will be affected by any tax increases in Budget 2012. Their incomes cannot be doubly hit by further cuts in funding for farm schemes or increased charges in Budget 2012.”

He continued, “Farm schemes and investment programmes, including REPS/AEOS, the Suckler Cow Scheme Disadvantaged Areas, Forestry and TAMS, are vital in underpinning agricultural production and maintaining farm viability. The AEOS scheme must be reopened for farmers leaving REPS 3.”

IFA Farm Business Chairman James Kane said, “Government can facilitate improvements in the structure of farming through supportive taxation measures. The retention of Capital Gains Tax Retirement Relief and Agricultural Relief at 90% is critical to encourage lifetime transfers, while capital allowances are an important incentive for on-farm investment. The Minister for Finance has recently indicated that stamp duty rates for commercial property may be reduced in the forthcoming budget. Any reduction must include agricultural land, to increase land mobility and farm transfers.”

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