Government accused of making ‘mockery’ of plan to incentivise green farming

Farmers had expected €49m boost in budget this year to help sector decarbonise

Sligo-Leitrim Independent TD Marian Harkin, critical of the overall package for agriculture in the budget.

Sligo-Leitrim Independent TD Marian Harkin, critical of the overall package for agriculture in the budget.

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The Government has been accused of making a “complete mockery” of the plan for carbon tax receipts to be used to incentivise greener farming after almost €50 million went towards funding welfare increases next year instead.

Budget documents show how €49 million that was expected to be used to help the agriculture sector to decarbonise will instead be used to help fund welfare payments targeting those at risk of fuel poverty.

A carbon tax increase of €7.50 per tonne of CO2, combined with rising energy costs, saw the Government move to increase the fuel allowance payment by €5 to €33 per week in Budget 2022.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has promised that the full €1.5 billion in decarbonising incentives for farmers will be delivered over the course of future budgets.

Budget documents note that the €1.5 billion will still be made available during 2021-2030 and a future scheme will form part of the suite of programmes under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to start in 2023.

However, the deferral of the use of €49 million in funds for farming has sparked criticism among the Opposition and in the farming community.

Sligo-Leitrim Independent TD Marian Harkin is critical of the overall package for agriculture in the budget. She said the purpose of the carbon tax was to incentivise people to change behaviour as part of the fight against climate change and to use part of the receipts to help decarbonise farming.

“Not doing that makes a complete mockery of what carbon tax is about in the first place,” Ms Harkin told The Irish Times. She questioned if the Department of Agriculture was ready to introduce incentives for greener farming next year and raised concerns that this money would only start to flow once the new CAP starts in 2023.

“In the meantime how are farmers expected to deliver cuts in emissions?” she asked.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan claimed the Government had reneged on a commitment to allocate to the sector a portion of the €1.5 billion carbon tax money in the budget. He said “it will further rock farmer confidence in the programme for government commitment on the allocation of the carbon tax, which is also costing farmers a lot of money”.

A spokesman for Mr McConalogue responding to the points made by Ms Harkin and Mr Cullinan, said, “The needs of the Department of Agriculture for 2022 were met without recourse to carbon tax. This is simply a matter of scheduling.

“The Minister will shortly be announcing indicative allocations for a new CAP Strategic Plan for the period 2023 to 2028, and funding for this programme will be supplemented by significant carbon tax revenues.”