Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, says changes to Farm Assist and the Rural Social Scheme is killing any opportunity for farm development.
Deputy Ó Cuív said the Minister for Social Protection recently changed the means testing rules on Farm Assist and also on the Rural Social Scheme, which will have a severe impact on the farming community.
“This is killing any incentive for farmers to work and develop farms,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
“Since Minister Burton has taken office, she has changed the rules for Farm Assist, farm income is now assessed on a euro for euro basis. In other words if you earn €200 from farming, the payment will be reduced by €200. This leaves farmers with no benefit from farming and it eliminates all incentives to work small holdings.
“In a further blow to farmers, all new participants on the Rural Social Scheme, who are working 19.5 hours per week, will only receive a top-up payment of €20 per week. Previously if a farmer went on the Rural Social Scheme, they were entitled to the basic individual payment of €208 per week and adult dependent and child dependent allowances, as well as whatever they earn from the farms.
“Under the present scheme, the amount payable is net of the total farm income, which makes the scheme very unattractive. Working 19.5 hours per week on a work scheme for €20 absolutely eliminates the incentive to develop small farms. The Minister seems to have a totally negative view towards rural communities and particularly towards the farming community, she seems to be trying to kill any initiative.
“The Rural Social Scheme has been very successful, since I set it up in 2003, at creating opportunities for small farmers to provide services in the community. The Minister seems determined to strangle the scheme and to slowly close it down.
“I will be continuing to pursue the Minister on this issue and try and get a return to the previous rules that were applied to this scheme.”