€79 million in new funding for Agri Environment
Major Rural Development Schemes Extended
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D, today announced details of his Department’s 2021 Budget. The 2021 Estimates provide a gross Vote of €1.826 billion for the Department. This is €179 million more than the gross funding provided in Budget 2020 and is a 11% increase on the allocation in Budget 2020.
Speaking this afternoon, the Minister said, “The backdrop to this year’s budget is unprecedented. Apart from the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid, it comes at a time of transition between the current Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2014-2020, and the new one.
My priority was to ensure that this transition did not result in any gap in funding for farmers. I wanted to maintain supports for vulnerable sectors, without losing focus on the strategic development of agriculture and food. I also wanted to lay the foundations for a major new Agri Environment Scheme to support farm incomes and incentivise climate and environmental action into the future. I am pleased that all of these key objectives have been achieved, while providing significantly increased support for sectors such as horticulture and organics, and in areas such as strategic research and innovation, marketing and promotion, and investment in the sea fisheries sector.”
Referring specifically to the challenge of Brexit , the Minister said “ With an additional €39 million provided for staff and infrastructure this year, my Department will in in a position to fulfil its expanded control obligations at ports and airports to facilitate trade in agri food products following the end of the Brexit Transition period. I am also extremely conscious of the negative impact of a no deal scenario on the agri food and fisheries sectors. I am pleased that the Government has set aside a €3.4 billion recovery fund to support sectors, including the agri-food and fisheries sectors, particularly affected by a no deal Brexit and Covid-2019.”
Minister McConalogue highlighted a number of key provisions in his Department’s estimate for 2021. He stated, ‘’I am providing some €79 million in new funding for a number of pilot measures in the agri environment area. This is a very significant step. This funding will contribute to the development of a pilot scheme to encourage environmental action from farmers who are not currently in GLAS, and a number of pilot environmental actions that will be available to farmers on a broader basis. I expect these pilot actions to inform the development of a major new environmental scheme for agriculture following on from the GLAS scheme. I am extremely conscious of the pressures on the tillage sector this year, and will be ring fencing some €10 million of this sum specifically for that sector. This funding will also contribute to the development of new initiatives on farm safety.
Beef and sheep farming is the lifeblood of many rural communities. This Budget provides €102 million in targeted supports for livestock farming. I am providing more than €85 million to support sustainable beef farming. This includes over €40 million for the extension of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme during the transition period. It also includes €40 million for the Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot, based on the BEEP-S Scheme, as well as providing an additional €5 million for a new calf weighing measure to support beef farmers rearing dairy calves. I am also providing €17 million for the extension of the Sheep Welfare Scheme.
This package, together with the provision of more than €450 million for schemes like GLAS and ANCs, will support livestock farmers to improve the economic and environmental performance of their herds, while providing valuable income support for the sector. I am also providing €80m for the TAMs scheme to support investment on farms and the continuation of the scheme.”
Minister McConalogue also referred to the establishment of a National Food Ombudsman, in accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government staing, “Strengthening the position of farmers in the supply chain is a priority for me. My Department will be drafting the legislation needed to establish a food ombudsman in 2021, and I am making an initial provision of €1m to assist with start up costs. This is a very important initiative, and together with continued support for the establishment of producer organisations, can help to make a difference.’’
The Department’s 2021 estimate also provides some €13 million in increased funding for the continued promotion of the environmentally sustainable development of fisheries, aquaculture and wider seafood industry. This brings the total funding for the Sea fisheries Programme to €151 million. This sector supports some 16,000 direct and indirect jobs in the coastal communities. The 2021 provision will allow the Marine Institute to progress the construction of a new €25 million modern research vessels and provide additional funding for the development of fisheries harbours.
Commenting on the budget provision, Minister of State Martin Heydon referred to the additional funding secured for Research and Innovation, Market Promotion and for Farm Safety, stating “Bord Bia’s grant in aid has been increased by €4 million to €52.250 million. The additional funding allocation will support marketing and promotion activities to develop and build a premium position for our food and drink exports in the UK, European and wider international markets. Research and innovation are also key drivers of international competitiveness and I am pleased that the provisions for the department’s competitive research programmes, for Teagasc and for the Marine Institute have all been increased. I am also pleased that the budgetary provisions will allow for a number of new, imaginative, community led initiatives on farm safety and for a new focus on safety in farmer training programmes.”
Minister of State Pippa Hackett also welcomed the publication of a very positive estimate for the environment, and for key sectors such as forestry, horticulture and organic farming sating, “Our farms need to be healthy and rich in biodiversity. That’s why I am delighted that the ring-fenced €23m from the Carbon Tax, along with additional €56million funding from the EU will be allocated to a range of new pilot Environmental measures. Along with the funding for forestry, horticulture and organics, this represents a big win, both for famers and for the environment.”
Minister McConalogue also referred to the agri taxation package that complemented his department’s vote spending saying, “I have worked closely with Minister Donohoe on taxation. As well as maintaining the existing agri-taxation measures that are estimated to benefit Irish farmers by an average of €240 million per annum, I am very pleased that important stamp duty reliefs have been renewed:
- Consanguinity Stamp Duty Relief, an important tool to promote succession and intergenerational renewal; and
- Farm Consolidation Stamp Duty Relief, which facilitates farmers to reduce farm fragmentation.
I also welcome the Minister’s decision to increase the VAT Flat Rate addition for unregistered farmers to 5.6%, which will benefit the sector by some €12 million in a full year. In addition, the equalisation of the Earned Income Tax Credit will benefit farmers and all the self-employed. I will continue to engage with Minister Donohoe on ways to address existing and emerging challenges”.
Minister McConalogue stated, “Given the potential challenges facing our sectors next year, it was critically important to protect farm incomes, but also to maintain a focus on building strategic pathways for the sustainable development of the agri food and fisheries sectors into the future. With a combination of significant additional funding and a strategic tax package, I believe we have succeeded in doing that. Ministers Hackett, Heydon and I look forward to working closely with stakeholders over the next year as we build a platform for the development of this great sector.’’