Budget 2017: Farmers hope Minister will acknowledge Brexit’s impact on sector

Calls for impact of flooding, Fair Deal assesment and cash flow to be addressed in budget

Farmer Michael Kelly on his land near Ardrahan village in South Galway.  ‘We don’t need any increase in the price of excise duty on farm diesel, and there has to be some measure to help cash flow, such as bringing forward the areas of natural constraint  payments which the Government had committed to for 2018,’ he says.Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Farmer Michael Kelly on his land near Ardrahan village in South Galway. ‘We don’t need any increase in the price of excise duty on farm diesel, and there has to be some measure to help cash flow, such as bringing forward the areas of natural constraint payments which the Government had committed to for 2018,’ he says.Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

South Galway farmer Michael Kelly is well attuned to the issues of isolation, emigration and dislocation as skilfully depicted by Pat Shortt and fellow actors in the recent TV3 series, Smalltown.

However, Pat Shortt’s dairy farmer character, Tom, did not have to deal with the periodic flooding which Mr Kelly and his neighbours also face in thekarst limestone area of Ardrahan, below the Slieve Aughty mountains.

So when Minister for Finance Michael Noonan rolls out the budget on Tuesday, Mr Kelly hopes that he acknowledges the many challenges which the farming community faces – not least the impact of Brexit on prices for food exports.

Mr Kelly, who is focused on sheep and tillage on his 50 hectare holding, is a former Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) county vice-chair and representative on several committees.

Lost yields

“There’s a saying here that if you see sheep fighting, it’s a sign of broken weather, and the ewes have been at it here all summer,” Mr Kelly says.

The weather has been a disaster for grain farmers, losing up to 50 per cent of anticipated yield,and the lack of any real Indian summer in September has been a serious blow, he says.

“So we don’t need any increase in the price of excise duty on farm diesel, and there has to be some measure to help cash flow, such as bringing forward the areas of natural constraint (ANC) payments which the Government had committed to for 2018,” he says.

These payments are similar to the old headage scheme, he explains.

He also believes there has to be a contingency fund for weather-related issues, as prime grassland which had never been flooded before was affected this year.

“This doesn’t have to be a gravy train, but monies should be earmarked to help people on a case-by-case basis,” Mr Kelly says.

Fair Deal scheme

He also hopes there will be no change downwards in the tax ceiling for land transfer within families, and points out that the Government’s Fair Deal scheme on nursing home care currently discriminates against farmers.

“Currently, the full value of assets is taken into account when qualifying for Fair Deal, which could mean a farmer being forced to sell substantial land to care for an elderly relative,” he says. “The earning potential of the asset, rather than the asset itself, should be assessed.”

Resources for the Garda to deter rural crime are also a priority for Mr Kelly and his neighbours, as are measures to stem depopulation.

“In spite of the promises, there seems to be no real commitment to revitalise rural towns, and to ensure bad planning decisions - such as the out-of-town food malls which are sucking the lifeblood out of the centre - are not repeated,” Mr Kelly says.