Thursday, 18 May 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan): According to the CSO there were 135,100 farmers in 2003, which is the most recent data available. Of this figure, 15,000 or 11% are under 35 years of age compared to the EU-15 average of 8%. This favourable demographic situation has been brought about by a series of policies and schemes to attract young people into farming.
Schemes to encourage earlier farm transfers include: (a) An Installation aid grant of €9,520 to farmers under 35 years of age who meet specific criteria. (b) Young trained farmers are eligible for 100% stock relief. (c) New entrants were also catered for under the 2005 National Reserve for the Single Payment Scheme. (d) Young trained farmers are eligible for higher dairy hygiene and farm waste management grant rates. (e) Young farmers/new entrants have also been prioritised under various milk quota schemes.
In terms of taxation measures, young trained farmers are eligible for 100% stamp duty relief on the transfer of agricultural land and buildings to them. A young farmer is also eligible for generous capital acquisitions tax agricultural relief, which reduces the market value of all agricultural property by 90%, thus exempting most family farm transfers from a capital acquisitions tax liability. Commissioner Fischer Boel, in her recent address to the Dáil, stated that Ireland and the EU may expect fierce competition in key agricultural markets such as beef and dairy production in the context of a new WTO agreement. The statement was not unexpected and reflects my own opinion that there will be increased competition on international markets in the future. The WTO negotiations are ongoing and the objective of the talks is a fair and equitable balance between the three pillars within agriculture of market access, domestic support and export competitiveness.
As regards market access I have stated repeatedly that there should be no further concessions granted to our negotiating partners and that we have already exceeded the limits of our generosity. I have never wavered from that opinion and provided that it is maintained I would be confident of our ability to maintain a competitive edge on EU dairy markets. As regards domestic supports the bottom line is that there will be no further reform of the CAP and the system of decoupled payments will be fully acceptable as WTO green box compatible. On export competitiveness the EU offer includes the elimination of export refunds by 2013 and clearly this offer will test our ability to compete in third countries. Nonetheless, with careful management of the phasing out process, together with increased scale and efficiency at both producer and processor levels.
I am confident that Irish dairy exports will continue to compete successfully on international markets with products that reach the highest standards demanded by consumers, reflecting emerging trends and tastes.
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