ICMSA President John Comer has criticised the measure for deferring on income tax in today’s budget.
He describes the income averaging facility as a “niche solution that was irrelevant to the main body of farmers who would have been far better served by the introduction of the Farm Management Deposit Scheme that ICMSA had lobbied for – and which had been given a fair hearing by Ministers [Michael] Noonan and [Paschal] Donohoe, and that the crippling reality of destructive income volatility could only be addressed by a scheme of this scope and structure and the so-called ‘Step-Out’ would not make any meaningful difference”.
Overall Mr Comer described the budget as “steady and solid” but noted to RTÉ that “there won’t be anyone throwing their hats in the air and saying the hardship is over”.
The reaction from opposition politicians was mixed. Most were disappointed, though welcomed some measures.
Independent Michael Fitzmaurice felt that several spending measures were using money that was left over from last year’s Budget, so they may not constitute a greater commitment. He singled out sheep subsidies and Glas scheme as examples of this while speaking with ThatsFarming.com.
He also told this website that he was disappointed with the lack of funding put towards rural infrastructure. He said:
“There is nothing new on flooding, nothing new on transport. There's going to be extra money for rural roads, but I haven't seen that money yet. There's an imbalance, when you look at the money that was talked about for the Luas a few months ago. My understanding are that the N5 and the N4 have not received any funding in this budget.”
Meanwhile, Anne-Marie McNally of the Social Democrats felt the agricultural aspects of the budget should have had more focus on Brexit.
“We're actually more concerned with what's not in there, like what impact Brexit will have on the industry. 41 per cent of our farm produce goes to the UK, so there needs to be significant investment in measures that would help identify new markets to protect against the impact of Brexit,” she told ThatsFarming.com.
This stance was underlined by SocDems co-leader Catherine Murphy in the Dáil, who said Irish farmers are “exposed” due to the weak cost of sterling.
Tipperary’s Mattie McGrath was disappointed there was no indication of a renewal of the Fair Deal scheme, though he welcomed several of the measures, including the new low-cost farm loan fund. His Rural Alliance colleague, Dr Michael Harty said he was “disappointed” as he didn’t “see enough in this budget which will deliver on a sustainable rural Ireland”.
Kerry’s Michael Healy-Rae was pleased with the funding being provided to the various programmes aimed at rural Ireland and agriculture, but felt it was “too vague”. He also hinted the €15 million for rural broadband might not be enough, saying, “While it is a great announcement, in some places we have people fighting for e fibre broadband and places like the bridia valley in glencar fighting for broadband full stop.”
Healy-Rae seemed to sum up the mood of one side of the house, calling the measures an example of “an avoid-a-general-election-at-all-costs budget”.