All farm families will qualify for support with energy bills arising out of farming activities, the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.
Mr McConalogue said the Government had acknowledged through the budget the “key demand” of the farming sector that they be included in the scheme.
The cost of the scheme as far as servicing the agriculture sector is concerned has not been calculated separately, but is part of the €1.2 billion business energy support scheme (BESS).
Farm families that combine their domestic and agriculture usage in the one bill will still qualify, it has been confirmed.
Under the BESS scheme those eligible will see 40 per cent of the increase in their energy bills covered up to a maximum of €10,000 per month.
Speaking at a briefing in Government Buildings, Mr McConalogue said his department’s €2.14 billion budget is the highest in its history and up €283 million on the 2022 provision or by 13 per cent.
The budget is designed to help farmers with the ongoing challenges presented by the war in Ukraine which have seen significant increases in the price of energy, animal feed and chemical fertiliser.
A further €10 million has been allocated for the tillage support scheme which was set up in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to encourage farmers to plant more crops and therefore increase self-sustainability. Mr McConalogue said this year’s scheme had resulted in a 7.5 per cent increase in tillage production.
Funding of €30 million is being allocated for a fodder support scheme to be paid in December which will further encourage farmers to save fodder for the winter of 2023.
The cost of fertiliser is being offset by an €8 million grant aid scheme to encourage the spreading of lime which helps mitigate the amount of artificial fertiliser the soil will need.
Similarly, there will also be an increase in the enhanced multi-species sward and red clover scheme which is a more environmentally sustainable method of farming, and reduces the usage of nitrogen fertiliser.
A total of €200 million is being allocated to allow 30,000 new farmers participate in the Agric-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) which will replace the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS).
ACRES will be the biggest agri-environment scheme announced in the history of the State. It is part of the draft Common Agricultural Policy strategic plan which lasts from 2023 to 2027.
Overall up to €500 million has been ringfenced for agri-environment schemes in Budget 2023.
It includes €90 million for the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) which will help fund a proposed increase to 60 per cent in the grant for installing renewable heat schemes and a standalone investment of €90,000 for solar panel investments.
The Government is providing €12 million over four years to allow farmers to install anaerobic digestion facilities which break down waste materials into biogas that can be used as a renewable fuel.
An accelerated capital allowance for slurry storage has been proposed between 2023 and 2025. The more efficient use of slurry storage will also lessen dependence on nitrogen fertiliser and reduce emissions.
The budget to encourage farmers to go organic has been increased by 80 per cent to €37 million.
Minister of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, said it will further encourage farmers to become involved in organic farming. There has been a 35 per cent increase in the amount of land being used for organic farming in the last two years.
The budget for forestry is being increased from €100 million to €112 million. She said it ought to provide sufficient incentive for landowners and farmers to plant an extra 8,000 hectares per annum “planting the right trees in the right place at the right time”.
The budget for the seafood sector and coastal communities of €335 million will mostly be used to mitigate the impacts of Brexit through the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.
An extra €12 million will be provided for the marine fuel pressures facing fishers.