Dáil debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)


7:05 pm

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Ingenuity and innovation flow throughout our agricultural sector. As our most important indigenous industry, farming and food production employ more than 160,000 people. It generates €14 billion in exports, which brings money into rural communities throughout the country. It is a sector on which the Government places a significant value, and one we want to grow and continue to provide for farmers, fishers, foresters and their families, and for all those employed further downstream.

Budget 2023 is designed to put money back into people's pockets, help with the cost of living and back business. It will do that for farmers and the agrifood sector too. Farmers face great uncertainty due to rising production costs. The three Fs of feed, fuel and fertiliser have been directly impacted by the war in Ukraine and soaring energy costs. From the outset of the war, our focus has been on providing targeted supports to farmers to protect food production. That approach has worked. So far we have provided more than €90 million in additional supports to farmers. Budget 2023 builds on that commitment. There will be schemes to help offset high fertiliser costs. We have extended the full removal of excise duty on green diesel and we have put in place supports to deliver vital feed stocks for our livestock sector, working closely with the tillage sector.

Looking ahead, Food Vision 2030, our ten-year strategy for the sector, identifies research as a central part in maintaining a competitive, sustainable and strong industry. That is why I have strengthened my Department's research fund to €20 million for 2023. This will allow us to roll out a significant call for new research projects next year and ensure a steady pipelines of climate solutions for the sector in the coming years, giving us time to implement the science and technology that is available to us today.

I will give an example. In 2016, we funded the RumenPredict project. Teagasc and was able to identify traits in beef cattle that allow for the selection of low methane emitting cattle without impacting animal productivity and, therefore, farm profitability. We are now in a position to incorporate this trait into our national breeding strategies. Building on that, in the follow-on call in 2019 we funded METH-ABATE, which is currently testing feed additives such as seaweed and validating their ability to reduce methane emissions from our pasture-based system. That is how the pipeline of research projects work. The continuous investment by the Department in research in recent years and the increased commitment this year will mean the projects we fund next year will be part of delivering the solutions we will need later in this decade.

Farm safety is a priority for me. As of today, unfortunately, ten people have lost their lives in fatal incidents this year. That is ten farms, families, and communities left devastated. I have put more resources into this area and increased my dedicated budget to €2.5 million for 2023. In the coming year, I want to prioritise having more physical safety infrastructure on farms. Recent figures from Teagasc show there are more than 4,500 non-fatal incidents on farms every year. More than half of these incidents involve livestock. That is why I have pushed to increase the grant rate for farm safety equipment under TAMS to 60%, subject to EU approval. I want to make it more feasible for farmers to invest in better animal handling units and calving pens. This will help not only reduce the number of injuries but also increase work efficiency, in particular for older farmers working alone. We must ask why so many fatal incidents involve farmers in their 70s. It is because we have so many farmers still working in their 70s. Some years ago we introduced a series of tax reliefs that made the long-term rental of land more attractive and encouraged more plan generation and renewal. These vital tax reliefs, which should never be taken for granted, have been extended in budget 2023. They give security to older and younger farmers to plan for the future and to highlight our continuing commitment to an industry where we see a bright future for young farmers.

I acknowledge the significant commitment the Department has made to the equine industry, one that employs thousands of people the length and breadth of this country, from the significant investment in Horse Racing Ireland to the investment in Horse Sport Ireland to a commitment of €1.9 million for the upgrade of the National Equine Centre, which plays a critical role in preventing diseases and pandemics in the horse world. We have shown a big commitment to the sector and that will come to fruition. Like all the measures outlined, it is an investment in rural Ireland and in farmers. We announced a significant investment in equine TAMS for next year, which is important not just for the equine sector and small breeders, the majority of whom have five mares or fewer, but also from a farm safety perspective.


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