Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary has called on the Minister for Social Protection to clarify whether the criteria for the Farm Assist payment has changed.  The latest renewal form does not take outgoings into consideration, focusing solely on assets and income.

Deputy Calleary commented, “I have been contacted by farmers across the county who are confused and concerned by the new renewal form. They’re worried that the Department of Social Protection is disregarding their outgoings and concentrating their eligibility based only on their income.  The Department hasn’t announced any changes to the application, and has instead tried to sneak in a new form which disregards outgoings, thereby making it almost impossible for many farmers in Mayo to qualify for the payment.

“Just over 1,400 farmers in Mayo were in receipt of the Farm Assist payment last year; however hundreds stand to lose this essential money because of the changes which have been underhandedly brought in.  This is the latest in a series of modifications to the scheme, which is penalising already hard-pressed farmers.  Farming families are already struggling to cope with cuts to supports, reduced prices and increased operating costs, and now they’re being subjected to harsher means tests to qualify for the Farm Assist scheme.

“These changes to key farming supports will have a devastating impact on hundreds of family farms across the county and will have a knock-on effect for the local communities and the agriculture sector as a whole.

“Minister Joan Burton must outline why this sneaky change was made and reverse it as a matter of priority”.