Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Farm Assist Scheme

11:10 am

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

As the Minister quite rightly pointed out, the farm assist scheme was introduced in 1999. Deputy Ó Cuív, who is here, some others and I were strong advocates for changing the then smallholder's farm assistance payment because it was based on historical farm income. The farm assist scheme was quite rightly introduced to take account of present income circumstances. As we know, there can be a very sudden change in farm income circumstances, perhaps due to an outbreak of disease in a herd, a sudden drop in international prices for commodities or weather-related events, which can impact very severely on farm incomes.

The Minister mentioned the change in the PRSI exemptions in 2007. I am talking about the cohort of farmers between 1999 and 2007 who had a break in their insurance contributions due to availing of the farm assist scheme. They did not know that their record was broken. People generally understood that if someone went onto the social welfare payment, his or her insurance contribution would be maintained. I have spoken to accountants, predominantly small-scale ones such as the Minister would know from her two counties. They have said that in many instances, farmers came to them when they reached pension age and were horrified to learn that their insurance record was broken and that they did not have an entitlement to a full pension.

I believe, through my constituency work and from checking with other colleagues who deal with small-scale farm holders, that there is only a small number of people involved. They are being denied justice through not having the knowledge at the time or because they were never informed by the Department or the Revenue Commissioners that they needed to make a contribution while they were in receipt of the farm assist payment.


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