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Minister McConalogue Prioritises Farm Incomes in Budget 2024

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, has announced details of his Department’s 2024 Budget which has a clear focus on protecting farm and fisher incomes.

The 2024 Estimates provide a gross vote of €1.942 billion for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This 2024 figure adjusts to reflect the discontinuation of over €240m in Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) funding, as the deadline for all of this expenditure is December 2023. This BAR funding was predominantly expended in the fisheries sector but also supported the genotyping programme and the National Beef Welfare Scheme in 2023 which are now being continued using national funding.

Speaking about the announcement to prioritise farm incomes in Budget 2024, Minister McConalogue said, “my goal in this budget is to support our farm and fishing families. The funding provided supports the sector’s environmental ambition and on-farm sustainability while at the same time supporting farmer incomes and providing vital infrastructure to support the development of our fishing sector and coastal communities. Budget 2024 supports farm families as we implement the targeted supports for farmers provided in the largest ever €10 billion CAP Strategic Plan (CSP).”

Referring to the Livestock Sector, Minister McConalogue said, “Budget 2024 demonstrates my unwavering commitment to our beef and sheep farmers. In this context I am pleased to announce that I have provided targeted supports of more than €113m for the livestock sectors. I will continue to provide the €200 per cow payment delivered in 2023. In addition, I intend to provide an additional payment for sheep farmers which, together with the current Sheep Welfare Scheme payments, will result in a payment equivalent to €20 per ewe in 2024. This will be the highest payment ever provided to our vitally important sheep sector.”

Over €700 million, has been secured to support farm families in their efforts to tackle the challenges of climate, biodiversity and water quality.

To support farmers in their efforts to improve water quality through investment in on-farm nutrient storage, and in the context of dealing with the Nitrates Derogation changes, a number of new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS 3) measures are being developed by the Minister.

The Minister said, “I will engage with the European Commission to secure changes to the TAMS 3 investment aid scheme to allow the introduction of a separate investment ceiling for all farmers building additional storage facilities on farm, beyond regulatory compliance. This support will be available at the prevailing rates of 40% and 60% (young farmers/female farmers). In addition, and in support of water quality and efficient nutrient use, I will seek approval to introduce a dedicated support measure to provide 70% support for manure storage facilities on farms importing livestock manure under a contract relationship.”

To further assist farmers in this space, the Minister will continue support for the hugely successful soil sampling scheme and the multi species sward scheme, saying, “following the successful initial phase of the soil sampling scheme, I will shortly open a further phase of this work with the ambition of supporting the taking and analysis of up to 90,000 samples over the next 12 to 18 months. This will build on the good work already completed and facilitate optimum nutrient management whilst building a comprehensive profile of our soils.”

Referring to the continued investment in Environmental schemes, the Minister said, “EIPs have been a very successful model in support of our drive to the sustainable growth of our Irish Agri sector. I am committed to supporting the EIP model. Now, more than ever, partnerships such as those achieved through EIPs are needed to drive innovation at local, rural, regional and national levels in order to address our big environmental and agricultural challenges.”

Minister Pippa Hackett confirmed the allocation of a total package of €14.35 million to support the National Strategy for Horticulture for 2024. Of this €3 million has been allocated to provide advance payments to Producer Organisations under the EU funded scheme for the fruit and vegetables sector.

Funding for the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) has been increased by €40m, bringing the total allocation for the Scheme to €200m for 2024.

Commenting on this increased allocation, the Minister said, “the level of interest in ACRES demonstrated that farmers are clearly making a positive contribution in addressing a range of climate, biodiversity and environmental issues. After the unprecedented demand for places in Tranche 1 of ACRES, I am delighted to announce that Tranche 2 of the Scheme will open for applications in the next few weeks. This will allow us to deliver on the Government’s commitment to have 50,000 farmers participating in the flagship environmental programme under Ireland’s 2023-2027 CAP Plan.”

Minister McConalogue also made significant provision for the Organic Farming Scheme, stating, “the Programme for Government is committed to increasing the utilisable agricultural area under organic production. Budget 2024 will provide an allocation of €57 million, which reflects the extraordinary level of interest in this scheme.”

Commenting, Minister of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett said, “I have implemented a range of policy measures to increase participation in Organic Farming. Since I took office, we have doubled the number of organic farmers. Today’s budget contains €57m for organic farming, a 50% increase to help achieve our ambitious goal in the Climate Action Plan of 10% of agricultural land under organic production by 2030. I look forward to announcing the opening of the next phase of the scheme shortly.”

Announcing his Department’s forestry funding allocation for 2024, Minister McConalogue said, “I am pleased to confirm that €110 million is being allocated for forestry next year. The overall funding of €1.3 billion committed to the new National Forestry Programme for the period 2023-2027 represents the largest-ever investment by an Irish Government in tree-planting. It has been designed to incentivise farmers to the greatest extent possible to engage with tree-planting as an alternative income stream, through generous 100% establishment grants, significantly increased annual premia over an extended 20-year period and a tax-free asset on maturity. In addition, farmers can continue to receive their Basic Payment on land which is also planted.”

“The latest scheme to launch is very innovative and important to highlight. The Native Tree Area Scheme under the Programme, which could suit many farmers wishing to try out planting on a small scale. This scheme allows farmers to create small native forests or native forests for water protection of up to two hectares per holding, with grant and annual premium payments over a 10-year period totalling more than €22,000 per hectare.”

Minister McConalogue confirmed that those farmers and landowners who have been affected by ash dieback will be supported through the National Forestry Programme following receipt by his colleague, Minister of State Senator Pippa Hackett, of the Report of the Independent Review Group.

Minister of State Hackett said, “forestry is at the heart of this agriculture budget with an allocation of €110m to enable us to vigorously pursue our planting and climate change goals in line with our new Forestry Programme. My department is currently working on some outstanding state aid issues in relation to the recommendations of the Independent Review on Ash Dieback. When this work is complete, I will publish an Implementation Plan. Any expenditure implications arising will be considered in the context of the ongoing rollout of the Forestry Programme.”

The Department’s 2024 estimate also provides continued funding for the continued promotion of the environmentally sustainable development of fisheries, aquaculture and wider seafood industry.

Minister McConalogue said, “over the lifetime of this Government €500 million has been spent on the Seafood Sector. Over the past two years I have announced a range of schemes, worth €271 million, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. In December 2022 the Commission adopted the Seafood Development Programme 2021-2027. The funding provision made by the Government in Budget 2024 will enable this Programme to provide for further support to the sector over the coming years up to 2027 to ensure that it will not only survive, but transform to generate economic growth and sustain jobs. The Programme will also provide funding to state bodies which carry out important work in the marine environment to protect our coastal natural resources.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Farm Safety, Research and Development, and New Market Development, Martin Heydon TD said, “I will continue to build on efforts to improve farmers safety, health and wellbeing with a dedicated fund of €2.5m in 2024. This fund will be used to extend the range of initiatives currently undertaken to improve farm safety and wellness among the farming community. The area of research and development is also a key focus for me. I am delighted to have secured an additional €2m in funding for this area, bringing my Department’s research budget to €22.45m. This will be used to drive greater innovation in our agriculture and food sectors as we position Irish agriculture as a leader in sustainable food production.”

Minister McConalogue committed to continue funding for European Innovation Partnership (EIP) projects under Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027.

Referring to the agri taxation package that complemented his Department’s vote, Minister McConalogue added, “the agri-taxation measures announced by my colleague the Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, T.D will be key drivers of agriculture policy in 2024 and be of direct benefit to Irish farmers. We have a taxation policy that supports the transfer of land to the next generation and we, as a Government, are committed to protecting this at all costs. I welcome the announcement by Minister McGrath to defer the Residential Zoned land Tax (RZLT) today. This was an important request of mine for this budget to provide active farmers an opportunity to engage with the process and seek a dezoning of their land if they so wish.”

Minister McConalogue also welcomed the amendments of the long-term land leasing explaining the benefit to active farmers, saying, “Minister McGrath has agreed with my proposal to restrict the relief so that it does not become immediately available to the purchasers of land, i.e., that the relief will only become available when the land had been owned for seven years. This focuses the relief on genuine farmers, reduces the likelihood of speculation while protecting the support for farmers engaged in long-term lease arrangements.”

“I also welcome the renewal of the both the Stamp Duty Consanguinity Relief on transfers of farmland.. Further to this, farmers can also continue to avail of Accelerated Capital Allowances for Slurry Storage, a measure which will be available for another two years. These taxation supports align very closely with my Department’s policies in support of farmers to improve their environmental sustainability, generational renewal and farm safety. The renewal of the consanguinity relief for an additional five years promotes and encourages the lifetime transfer of farms, thereby enhancing generational renewal in the sector.”

Minister of State Martin Heydon added, “I welcome the extension of the accelerated Capital Allowances for the wear and tear of Farm Safety Equipment. The Wear and tear allowances for machinery or plant are generally given over an eight-year period at an annual rate of 12.5% of the capital expenditure incurred. However, this measure, introduced in 2021, provides for capital allowances of 50% per annum to be claimed over an accelerated two-year period where a person holds a qualifying certificate in respect of eligible equipment. Farm succession is a significant factor in farm safety and we must support the present and future generation of farmers. I therefore welcome the extension of critical tax reliefs which encourage the lifetime transfer of farms in addition to increased lifetime relief thresholds.”

Concluding, Minister McConalogue said, “the farm, food and fishing sectors are the lifeblood of rural and coastal communities and contribute enormously to prosperity and employment creation right across the economy. I am satisfied that this budget continues to support these vital sectors.”

The author: Ryan Harmon