The ICMSA President, John Comer, has said that farmers looking at Tuesday’s Budget would generally consider it as ‘steady and solid’ but he was critical of certain measures that he maintained would prove to represent bad value in terms of expenditure versus results.

On the plus side, Mr Comer said that the changes to the USC and the extension of Earned Income Credits for self-employed were general benefits, though he pointed out that the taxation system still has an in-built bias against farmers and self-employed in terms of individual credit.

He also welcomed the extension of the CGT Farm Restructuring Scheme to 2019, the increase in the CAT tax free thresholds and the extension of Capital Allowances for Energy Efficient Equipment to sole traders. The increases announced to the Rural Development Programme and the increase in the VAT Rebate rate will also benefit the farming community in an overall sense.

But the ICMSA President was less enthusiastic about the ‘Step-Out’ facility being introduced for income averaging saying that it was – as best – a ‘niche solution’ that was irrelevant to the main body of farmers who would have been far better served by the introduction of the Farm Management Deposit Scheme that ICMSA had lobbied for and which had been given a fair hearing by Ministers Noonan and Donohoe.

Mr Comer said that the crippling reality of destructive income volatility could only be addressed by a scheme of this scope and structure and the so-called ‘Step-Out’ would not make any meaningful difference.

He was even more critical of the diversion of the EU Crisis Fund into a fund for low interest loans instead of being utilised in a flat payment per dairy farmer in the manner that ICMSA had proposed.

Mr Comer said the very real danger was that fund would be frittered away in ‘penny packets’ instead of making a real difference to dairy farmers who were the main beneficiaries in most other member states.