IFA says Budget 2018 should focus on competitiveness and support farm incomes

IFA has launched its 2018 Budget submission

IFA president Joe Healy

Budget 2018 provides an opportunity for the Government to provide direct and positive support to farming enterprises, according to IFA president Joe Healy.

“Delivery on these proposals will contribute to tackling low farm incomes, underpinning the contribution of the farming and agri-food sector to the economy, including the Foodwise 2025 targets, and supporting economic activity in rural communities,” he said at the launch of the association's pre-Budget submission, Supporting Farm Incomes – Underpinning Competitiveness.

Among its focus is a call for Government supported loans for working capital and on-farm investment, increased funding of €25m for Areas of Natural Constraint, increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit to bring in line with PAYE credit, and on income volatility, enhancement of income averaging to increase availability and provision of a deposit scheme.

Farming and the agri-food sector continues to deliver significant employment and export growth. Following a difficult second half of 2016, food and drink exports have grown strongly in early 2017, recording growth of 8% in the first four months of the year.

He pointed out that market disturbance caused by the sterling depreciation was impacting unequally on different member states and different sectors, depending on their exposure to trade with the UK.

The IFA president said farming remains a low-income sector, as shown by the Teagasc farm income figures for 2016. Average farm income in 2016 was just over €24,000, with incomes on livestock and sheep farms significantly below this. In addition, income volatility, through product price, input cost or weather related disturbances provides an ongoing challenge to farm viability.

IFA Farm Business Chairman Martin Stapleton said: “Budget 2018 provides an opportunity to address ongoing challenges in farming through the taxation system. These include income volatility, the discrimination between self-employed and employees in the income tax system and the need for ongoing farm investment, intergenerational transfer and farm restructuring”.

In addition, tax measures are required to support and deliver upon Government policy in renewable energy, through the development of renewable energy projects using farmland.