FARMING representative organisations in Clare have given a cautious welcome to Budget 2021, while voicing reservations over the fairness of the an increase of almost 2c per litre in the price of agri-diesel.
An increase of €7.50 per tonne of carbon came into effect last Tuesday night, adding 1.937c the cost of a litre of green diesel. The measure takes the total carbon tax on agri-diesel to almost 9c per litre.
Said Cratloe’s Eddie Punch, General Secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), “The carbon tax is an environmental measure when there is a viable alternative to agri-diesel. When there’s no realistic alternative, it becomes just another tax, and it’s unfair.”
Tom Lane, Clare County Chair of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), agreed the measure is unjust in the view of his members. “There is no viable alternative to agri-diesel on the market currently,” he said. “We understand the pressure to reduce emissions and when you look back on the amount of agri-diesel you would use in a year, it amounts to a lot, but there is no alternative.”
Similarly, Martin McMahon Clare Chair of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) was critical of the increase. “Really, it has a knock-on increase on costs across so many aspects of farming, without much prospect of an alternative fuel,” he said.
On the expenditure side of the budget, all three farming chiefs welcomed clarification that schemes such as GLAS, the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme and the Sheep Welfare Scheme would be extended.
“We had 46,000 members nationally due to come out of the GLAS scheme, so an extension is welcome,” Mr Lane said.
Mr Mahon described the ANC scheme as “essential to the west of Ireland,” saying that any move to reduce it would have created considerable difficulty for farmers.
Increased funding for the Department of Agriculture to establish a Food Ombudsman was widely welcomed. “This is something that ICSA has been looking for since 2014, because greater regulation is needed to ensure transparency in the food chain,” he said. “We need to know who makes what and if there are any abuses on the part of processors or retailers. Its success depends on the determination of the government to give it real power.”
Mr Punch also commended the government for moving to end tax discrimination against those, including farmers, who are self-employed. “We have been looking to have the situation rectified whereby a full-time farmer pays more tax than a part-time farmer with PAYE credits. This will end next year and there will be full income tax equality, but it will be 2022 before the impact is felt.”
Both the IFA and ICSA representatives called for more clarity on the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP) for suckler farmers. “BEEP has provided more financial stability, and has been a very good scheme,” Mr Lane noted.
The extension of tax reliefs for the transfer of farmland between certain blood relatives and for the purchase of land to consolidate holdings was also welcomed by the three farmer organisations.
The government said it has framed Budget 2021 in the context of Brexit, something the IFA county chair described as “the big unknown”. “It has had a huge negative impact on beef sales for some time,” he noted.