North Cork Fine Gael Councillor John Paul O’Shea has welcomed the introduction by Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys of major new changes to the Farm Assist Means Test in a move that will benefit thousands of farmers.
The Minister has signed regulations that will introduce a new income disregard which will ensure farmers who avail of Agri-Environmental Schemes will not see their social welfare payments impacted. As a result of these changes, an income disregard will now be applied to the department’s Farm Assist, Jobseeker’s Allowance and State (Non-Contributory) Pensions.
Welcoming the announcement, Cllr. O’Shea said “Introducing an income disregard under these schemes is intended to incentivise more farmers to participate in them, in line with the Government’s climate change objectives. Grants under these agricultural schemes benefit from the maximum disregard of €2,450, with the remaining balance assessed at 50%. So as an example, a farmer who receives a grant of €2,000 would not see their social welfare payment impacted whatsoever. This is indeed very welcomed news for farmers”.
Announcing the new measures, Minister Humphreys said “I am delighted today to extend the list of agri-environmental schemes that benefit from a social welfare disregard – providing additional certainty to our farming community. These measures will benefit thousands of farmers across the country with a maximum disregard of €2,450 being applied. I also believe by expanding the list of Agri-Environment Schemes, more farmers will participate. I would encourage small farmers, particularly, to apply for these schemes in the knowledge that it will not have a negative effect on their social welfare payment.
“As Minister for Rural Community Development, and being from Rural Ireland myself, I know all too well the critical role our farmers are already playing in Ireland’s response to climate action. I hope this move will lead to an increase in the numbers taking up these schemes.”
A list of the schemes (managed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) that attract an income disregard follows. Grants under these agricultural schemes benefit from the maximum disregard of €2,450, with the remaining balance assessed at 50%. As an example, a farmer who receives a grant of €2,000 would not see their social welfare payment reduced due to this grant.
Both existing recipients and new applicants will benefit from this measure.
The agri-environmental schemes that attract an income disregard are:
a) The Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS)
REPS is designed to reward farmers for carrying out their activities in an environmentally friendly manner and to bring about biodiversity improvement on farms.
b) The Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS)
AEOS encourages farmers to continue to apply agricultural production methods compatible with the protection of the environment, the landscape and its features.
c) The Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme
The Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) provides payments to farmers to help tackle climate change, preserve biodiversity, protect habitats, and promote environmentally friendly farming.
d) The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM)
The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) gives temporary financial aid to beef farmers in Ireland. Applicants commit to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on the holding by 5%.
e) The Beef Data and Genomics Programme
The Beef Data and Genomics Programme provides financial support to farmers for using technology and genomics to improve the national herd. Farmers have to meet standards on genotyped animals.
f) The Beef Environmental Efficiency Plan (BEEP-S) as part of the Beef Sector Efficiency Programme
The Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Suckler aims to increase the efficiency of Ireland’s suckler herd. It will do this by improving the data that is collected about the herd.
g) The Dairy Beef Calf Programme as part of the Beef Sector Efficiency Programme
The Dairy Beef Calf Programme supports beef farmers who are rearing calves from the dairy herd. Eligible calves must be born on or after 1 January 2021.
h) The Results Based Environment Agri-Pilot Programme (REAP)
The Results Based Environment Agri Pilot Programme (REAP) is an agri-environment pilot project that pays farmers to maintain and improve the environmental conditions of their land.
i) The Sheep Welfare Scheme
The Sheep Welfare Scheme provides financial support to farmers for taking extra steps to improve the welfare of their flock. Farmers get €10 per breeding ewe for completing flock welfare measures.
j) The Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme, including agroforestry grants and forestry for fibre
The Afforestation Scheme 2014-2020 provides financial support to encourage the planting of trees on land not previously under forest. Increasing the country’s forested area helps to tackle climate change, increases biodiversity, and provides sustainable jobs in the rural economy.
k) The Ash Dieback Replanting Scheme
The Ash Dieback replanting scheme provides financial support to help replant forests affected by the chalara ash fungus. The disease can affect ash trees of any age and in any setting.
l) The Creation of Woodland on Public Lands Scheme
This Scheme aims to encourage Public Bodies to establish new native woodlands on suitable bare land. The Scheme is aimed at all Public Bodies, including government departments and State sponsored organisations, higher education authorities and local authorities.
m) The Deer Tree Shelter and Deer/Hare Fencing Scheme
The Deer Tree Shelter and Deer/Hare Fencing Scheme provides financial support for measure which protect trees from damage. All 3 species of deer in Ireland are capable of inflicting serious damage to trees – sika deer, fallow deer and red deer.
n) The Forestry Grants and Premium Schemes (2014 – 2020)
o) The Forest Genetic Resources Reproductive Material Scheme
The conservation and development of indigenous forest genetic resources is fundamental to achieving the objectives of Ireland’s national forest policy. The Forest Genetic Resources Reproductive Material measure of the Forestry Programme aims to increase the availability and quality of forest tree seed through supporting the management of seed stands, and the establishment of new seed orchards.
p) The Forest Road Scheme
The Forest Road Scheme provides grants to help cover the cost of building forest roads primarily for harvesting but also for other management activities such as fire protection and recreation. Forest roads also improve the environmental value of forests by increasing edge effects.
q) The Forestry Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme
The aim of the scheme is to increase the level of forest management activity amongst participating forest owners. The target group are those forest owners that need additional knowledge to help them undertake one or more management activities in their forests. By filling this knowledge gap a potential barrier to the mobilisation of timber and biomass can be removed.
r) The Innovative Forestry Forest Technology: Central tyre inflation scheme module
The Central Tyre Inflation Scheme provides financial support to encourage investment by timber haulage operators in tyre systems which reduce road surface damage in forests.
s) The Native Woodland Conservation Scheme
The Native Woodland Conservation Scheme enhances the protection of Ireland’s native woodlands and biodiversity. It supports the restoration of existing native woodlands and the conversion of existing non-native forests to native woodland.
t) The NeighbourWood Scheme
The NeighbourWood Scheme provides financial assistance to create woodland amenities for local people. Funding is available to help establish woodland on greenfield sites and to support the development of existing sites.
u) The Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (Ash Dieback)
Through the RUS scheme, financial support can be made available for:
Site clearance or partial clearance: This involves the clearance (in advance of reconstitution) or partial clearance (in advance of underplanting) of ash trees and associated operations to present the site for reconstitution or underplanting.
Reconstitution: This involves the replacement of ash trees with alternative species following ash clearance.
Under-planting: This involves the partial re-planting of an ash plantation following partial clearance through systematic felling
v) The Woodland Improvement Scheme including Continuous Forestry Cover
The Woodland Improvement Scheme provides financial support to forest owners to help meet the cost of thinning broadleaf forests and broadleaf mixtures. This scheme will provide 2 thinning interventions for all broadleaf and broadleaf mixed forests regardless of whether or not they are grant aided. The scheme also supports the continuous cover forestry approach to forest management.