Fine Gael delivers for rural Ireland and the farming community – Deering

11th October, 2016

Fine Gael Carlow TD, and Chair of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, Pat Deering, has said Budget 2017 delivers for rural Ireland and the farming community.

“In Budget 2017 Fine Gael has made rural and regional development a top priority and we have delivered substantial funding to help create jobs and attract investment to rural Ireland. The budget delivers on many of Fine Gael’s commitments contained in the party’s manifesto and the Programme for Government.

“Budget 2017 will facilitate the development of an Action Plan for Rural Development, which will be published shortly, to co-ordinate and implement initiatives to support economic and social progress in rural Ireland.

“I know that access to high speed and reliable broadband is a major issue for many people in rural Ireland and I’m happy to say that funding has been provided for the continued roll out of the National Broadband Plan to deliver high speed broadband to every home and business in the State.

“Budget 2017 also increases funding to the Rural Development Programme by €107 million; from €494 million in 2016 to €601 million in 2017. This includes provision of €25 million for a new Animal Welfare Scheme for Sheep to support Ireland’s vitally important sheep sector. Funding is also provided to implement the Seafood Development Programme which is vital source of employment for our coastal communities.

“I’m particularly delighted to see the maintenance of the 9% VAT on tourism related businesses. This will have a positive impact for many in rural Ireland.

“As Minister for Finance Michael Noonan pointed out in his Budget speech today, farming and the agri-food sector has been going through a tough time recently, due to lower world prices and poor weather conditions. Brexit and the subsequent weakness in sterling strongly impacts the agri-food sector and this poses a competitive challenge for farmers and agri-food companies that sell a great deal of their output into the UK market.

“Today Fine Gael is announcing a package of measures to assist the farming and agri-food sector, including:

– Allowing a farmer facing an exceptionally poor year to “step out” of income averaging and, instead, pay only the tax due on a current year basis with any deferred tax liability becoming payable over subsequent years. (This facility will be available immediately and should provide cash-flow assistance this year).

– Increasing the flat-rate addition for farmers not registered for VAT from 5.2 per cent to 5.4 per cent with effect from 1 January 2017 (this compensates unregistered farmers for VAT incurred on their farming inputs).

– Extending farm restructuring relief to the end of 2019.

– Making payments under the new raised bog restoration incentive scheme exempt from Capital Gains Tax.

– An income tax credit for fishermen, aimed at assisting the viability of the sector and at attracting and retaining staff (the €1,270 annual credit will shelter income of up to €6,350, which is the equivalent value of the seafarers exemption).

– Improvements in the means testing arrangements for lower-income farmers on Farm Assist, including farm families with children.

– Expansion of the Rural Social Scheme by 500 places.

“To further support farmers, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, will be utilising EU exceptional adjustment aid to develop, in conjunction with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, a loan fund that will be low cost (below 3 per cent per annum) and highly flexible. These loans will enable farmers to improve the management of their cash flow and reduce the cost of their short term borrowings.

“Fine Gael is using the benefits of a strong economy to improve people’s lives. This budget delivers for farmers and is another important step forward in supporting rural Ireland. We cannot achieve all we want to in one year, but we are using the benefits of a strong economy to improve people’s lives.”