Protest over 'savage' farm cuts

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

Farmers protesting outside the Department of Agriculture yesterday accused Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of inflicting “savage cuts” in the budget.

Up to 100 farmers joined in the Irish Farmers Association protest to highlight the impact of budget cuts on their livelihoods.

Association president John Bryan said the income of thousands of farmers had been reduced with the shutdown of the suckler cow welfare scheme and cuts to the disadvantaged areas scheme, the sheep grassland scheme and Farm Assist, an income support scheme.

Some 11,000 low-income farmers are in Farm Assist, but changes introduced in the budget will make it harder for farmers to qualify. A married couple with three children and an income of €300 per week would have received a Farm Assist payment of €204 per week before last year’s budget. Cutbacks in the last two budgets reduce that to €102.20.

Speaking at the protest, Padraic Joyce from Islandeady, Co Mayo, said the highest number of farmers in Farm Assist – 1,815 – were from Mayo. Some 1,523 were from Donegal, while 1,110 were from Galway. He was from the same parish as the Taoiseach and said it was time Enda Kenny “had a word” with Mr Coveney.

Sheep farmer Tom Fadian from Achill Island, Co Mayo, said hill farmers had taken “a huge hit” in the budget. “People were at a low ebb financially before this, but hill farmers are particularly vulnerable now”.

Mr Bryan said low-income farmers were asking why they had been singled out.

“Farmers who were expecting support during a difficult year have been targeted unfairly by budget decisions that attacked them disproportionately once again.”