ICMSA president Pat McCormack
It is quite clear now – if it wasn’t before - that the Government does not understand the scale of the challenges being faced by the farming sector, either in terms of the 50 per cent fall in income predicted for this current year or the transformational challenges that could follow Brexit next March, according to ICMSA president Pat McCormack.
The Tipperary-based farm leader was commenting following the announcement of Budget 2019.
Mr McCormack said that farm families can only conclude that the Government had decided that it did not want to support farm families
The agenda now seemed to be about enhancing the position of corporate structures and big business over family farms, he said.
The ICMSA president said he was reluctant to come to this position, but it was the only logical conclusion to arrive at based on the Budget.
Introducing new schemes with more conditions and more inspections along with tweaks of existing schemes won’t solve the massive underlying problems and was simply "throwing shapes" rather than providing real solutions for the farming community, he said.
"The biggest single-issue facing family farms is income volatility and, as sole traders, the taxation system absolutely hammers farmers trying to make a living in an extremely volatile global food market," said Mr McCormack.
He said that ICMSA and others had consistently highlighted this fact and the Government had acknowledged the problem.
"As a matter of fact, Minister Creed acknowledged this following the last two Budgets and it is extremely disappointing that he has failed yet again to deliver for farm families on this matter," he said.
Mr McCormack said that corporate structures and big business were paying effective tax rates of 1 per cent and yet the Government cannot bring in a simple measure to assist farm families to establish a volatility fund under the supervision of the Revenue Commissioners that could be utilised for difficult years.
"One would now have to question at this stage the level of priority that agriculture is getting around the Cabinet table and this should be a matter of concern for everyone in rural Ireland", said the ICMSA president.
"The Government has a choice, either support the family farm structure or, in all honesty, tell these farm families that it is going in a different direction. In not introducing an income volatility measure in the Budget, the Government has actually given its answer to that choice, but, out of courtesy if nothing else, they should announce it as Government policy”, said Mr McCormack.