Speaking at a meeting of Social Partnership this week, which the Taoiseach and Minister for Agriculture attended, IFA President Padraig Walshe said, “farmers cannot afford to take further cuts on key farm schemes as cuts already made have had a disproportionate impact on farmers. Increasing taxes such as a carbon tax will also seriously impact on the productive sector and will significantly slow up the recovery of the Irish economy.”
Mr Walshe said, “cutting costs and improving competitiveness is what the Government should be focused on. Instead Government cutbacks have contributed to the farm income crisis, particularly for drystock farmers. Cutbacks to the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, Disadvantaged Areas and the closure of REPS 4 have hit the most vulnerable in the sector.”
He said, “Collectively, these cuts will amount to €100 million, mainly from thousands of low-income farmers many of whose incomes will drop by up to 40% as a consequence. Overall, the Government cuts already imposed will reduce total Farm Incomes by 5% next year and represent a cut of more than 20% in Government support for vital farm schemes.”
The IFA President said farmers would not have complained as vociferously if the cuts already imposed took account of their actual incomes and related directly and equitably to income cuts in the public sector. However, farming and agriculture has already been disproportionately hit by cuts that will impact on incomes, while the Government is failing to tackle the huge cost of delivering public services and competitiveness in the economy.
Padraig Walshe told the Taoiseach that the only response IFA have received to proposals identifying savings in the Agriculture Budget is from the Department of Finance, and reflects a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the Farm Income crisis and the role that the productive agriculture sector plays in the economy. “The senior civil servants making these decisions are totally out of touch with the critical role farming as a productive sector plays in sustaining economic activity and jobs in rural Ireland. IFA has shown that cuts will end up costing more in job losses and social welfare payments.”
Padraig Walshe again reminded the Taoiseach that in 2008, Average Farm Income was €16,993. In 2009, Farm Incomes are projected to fall by at least 25%, through a combination of historically low commodity prices, poor weather conditions and draconian Government cuts already imposed. Farm Incomes will be as low as €13,000 for all farms, and €16,000 for full-time farmers.