There are a number of hidden, mean spirited cuts in the Department of Agriculture budget that will hit the poorest farmers the most, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD.

Deputy Ó Cuív was speaking after Minister Simon Coveney produced his Departmental Budget 2013 proposals.

“There are a number of mean-spirited cuts contained in this budget, the hidden details reveal a number of hits to farmers’ incomes. The Farm Assist payment for low income farmers has taken an alarming cut. It will penalise farmers by a rate of 100% for any income from the farm.

“For example, a farmer with four kids who has a farm income of €200 will have lost €72 a week from his Farm Assist payments over the last two years. Someone with a farm income of €400 a week with four children will have lost €132. Even a single farmer on €100 a week with no kids would still have lost €30 of that per week. How can the Minister stand by and justify this?

“Secondly, the general VAT refund for farmers has been reduced from 5.2% to 4.8% on all sales. This will take €18 million from farmers’ pockets in 2013 and will make a huge difference to farmers, especially with the terrible summer we have had. Any sales farmers make this year should not be penalised any further, in some cases the sales on livestock or feed will just about keep them afloat and they cannot afford to lose this much needed revenue source.

“Minister Coveney made a big play about the tax relief he introduced and retained, when you examine the budget details it is clear these do not have any financial significance as the tax costs to the exchequer are nil. Many farmers throughout the country are already struggling, the very poor weather this summer has made it worse and this unfair budget will see farm incomes hit even further.”