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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness] Finally, there are times when the State wrongs an individual and instead of owning up to it, it will head for the status quo and the safety and comfort of hiding behind the system. The devastation that attitude has brought to individual people and families in the country is nothing short of shocking and a disgrace.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is the Minister, Deputy Coveney, sharing time or will he be taking the 20 minutes for himself?

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I will be sharing the time with myself because I have two portfolios I wish to address.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I wanted to check because a previous Minister was unaware he could share.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am okay, unless the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, is due to speak. I will take on board some of the issues raised by Deputy McGuinness although I do take issue with some of the generalised comments on the marine element of my portfolios. The complexity of leasing arrangements in some of our fisheries harbours are not as straightforward as Deputy McGuinness makes out and some of the people who are asking for leases to be signed have issues they need to deal with in respect of those harbours. However, I take the point in general and some of the points are fair.

  As a Government and as a country, we have dealt with a number of difficult budgets. The difficult decisions taken during that time have made it possible for Ireland to exit a bailout, reduce debt levels and move towards real recovery. During that time, the agrifood sector has continued to prove its fundamental importance as a cornerstone of the economy and rural life in general. I am pleased to say that the 2016 budget reflects a significant Exchequer recognition of that position and demonstrates a further commitment of support for the agrifood sector as a whole. The Exchequer contribution to the Vote of my Department will amount to €1.351 billion in 2016, which is €1.134 billion in current expenditure and €217 million in capital expenditure. This represents an overall increase of €109 million over this year’s Estimate and takes account of new priorities including, in particular, the rural development programme and the seafood development programme. The agrifood sector continues to play a significant role in our economic recovery, accounting for in excess of 169,000 jobs, and total agrifood exports amount to just under €11.3 billion as of last year, which is an increase of 29% since 2010.

  In addition to the Department's Vote, in 2016 Ireland will receive some €1.2 billion in direct funding from the EU for our basic payment scheme. I am pleased to announce that advance payments of 70% will be issued to farmers next week, which is the equivalent of about €750 million. I welcome the taxation measures introduced by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, which demonstrate the Government’s strong commitment to the agrifood sector. Last year we successfully collaborated on an agritaxation review, the most substantial package of its kind ever introduced in a single budget and worth about €300 million to farmers.

  Additional measures have been announced in budget 2016, including a major new initiative on family transfer partnerships to assist succession, which I will deal with later, the removal of forestry income from the high earners restriction for active foresters and farmers and, of course, the inclusion of farmers under the self-employed tax credit of €550 announced yesterday.

  In order to build on the progress achieved in recent years, the following measures have been prioritised for funding over the coming year. The rural development programme will see an investment of €4 billion in agriculture between the years 2014 to 2020 and is a key support in rural areas.   The rural development programme schemes provide vital investment capital in the rural economy, prioritise agri-environmental protection and support the incomes of family farms. Overall, for 2016 I have secured almost €500 million for investment in the rural development programme, which is up from €439 million in 2015 and an increase of over 12.5%.

  In terms of the agri-environment scheme, which is the biggest of these schemes, €203 million will be made available for the agri-environmental schemes AEOS, GLAS and Organics. At least 35,000, and up to 40,000, farmers will benefit under the new green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, known to farmers as GLAS, which encourages farmers to farm in an environmentally sustainable manner and pays them for specific actions they will take. Of course, this scheme will ultimately support up to 50,000 farmers and require funding of €250 million per annum in future years. However, we are getting there faster than had been promised and predicted.

  I am allocating €195 million to areas of natural constraint, continuing strong support for farmers farming in disadvantaged areas, and this will continue to generate an important multiplier effect in these local economies. I have also allocated funding amounting to almost €36 million to the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, for 2016. This will provide funding for the young farmer capital investment scheme as well as dairy equipment, organic capital investments, sheep fencing, pig and poultry investments, the animal welfare, safety and nutrient storage scheme and the low emission slurry spreading scheme. All of these are strategic schemes which seek to change and modernise farming through innovation and better ways of doing things.

  I am also seeking approval from Cabinet for a scheme to specifically target the tillage sector with support for appropriate investments and I will also reintroduce support for sheep fencing. The beef data and genomics scheme is a big area under the rural development programme. This innovative scheme is now almost fully subscribed with 29,000 applicants and will be further resourced to the tune of €52 million in 2016.

  In terms of the marine and seafood area, in anticipation of the approval of the seafood development programme I am providing some €36 million to my Department, the Marine Institute and BIM to fund the roll-out of capital investment schemes. In 2016, this is expected to include the launch of a new capital investment scheme, including supports for the discards ban, aquaculture development, seafood processing, fisheries local action groups, decommissioning of vessels innovation, new product development in the processing sector, stock conservation and sustainability in the inshore fisheries sector and training and advisory services for fishermen and aquaculture enterprises. In addition, significant investments will be made in enhancing control and enforcement of the common fisheries policy.

  It is worth noting that the seafood development programme that is going to be rolled out in the next five years is more than twice the size of the value of the fund of any previous seafood development programme introduced in Ireland. I also welcome the publication of the marine taxation review, which recommends potential areas for support through the taxation system and I look forward to further engagement on the specific recommendations. It is hoped that those recommendations will be factored into the finance Bill in the days to come.

  Food Wise 2025 emphasises the need to attract new talent to the sector and increase land mobility to ensure the productive use of land. In negotiating the last CAP reform, I was concerned to provide additional support for young trained farmers. These priorities were reflected in the new tax measures last year. We can already see these changes are driving real structural change in Irish agriculture right now. We have more young farmers in agricultural colleges than we have ever had before and we need to ensure they are not disappointed when they go back home to farm with a view to taking ownership and control of the management of their enterprises.

  Four existing tax measures on stock relief and stamp duty relief which are vitally important to young farmers and partnerships, in particular, have been renewed for a further three years. These measures are the 25% general stock relief on income tax, the 100% stock relief on income tax for certain young trained farmers, the 50% stock relief on income tax for registered farm partnerships and the stamp duty exemption on transfers of land to young trained farmers. The retention of the valuable 90% agricultural relief on capital acquisitions tax is also essential to facilitate inter-generational farm transfers.

  The area that is getting the most headlines today from an agricultural point of view is the new family transfer partnership introduced by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, yesterday. I am particularly pleased with the development. This incentive will encourage important conversations within farm families about succession planning at an earlier stage and will facilitate earlier inter-generational transfer of family farms. There is a significant tax credit of up to €5,000 a year for five years to encourage them in this regard. That is €25,000 to incentivise the orderly and managed transfer of the family farm from one generation to the next, which is what we are trying to achieve.

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