8th August, 2012
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling on all TDs to come out in opposition to any proposals that would see capital assets included in the means test for the third level grant. ICSA president, Gabriel Gimartin, has welcomed the fact that a number of deputies have today voiced their opposition to such a change being made. “The ICSA has been actively lobbying against any such move since the possibility was first mooted.”
“While we understand that the Government is assessing all expenditure with a view to making necessary savings, we contend that the inclusion of capital assets in the third level grant means test would have far too great an impact on equity of access to third level education for families relying on income from self-employment, including farmers.”
“While there are all sorts of spurious allegations about farmers manipulating their incomes to qualify, there has been no evidence advanced that this is in fact actually a factor in determining the amount of farm families qualifying. In a bad year, such as 2009, only 6% of farms generated an income greater than €40,000 which is below the eligibility cut off for full grant.”
The reality of the situation is illustrated by the following figures from the recent Teagasc National Farm Survey: the typical 30 to 50 hectare farm generated just €14,735 in income (in the case of suckler farms), €20,363 (in the case of beef farms), and €19,402 (in the case of sheep farms) in 2011. It is also worth noting that 2011 was, in general, a good year for farming – bad weather conditions and rapidly increasing commodity costs mean that incomes are likely to be significantly lower in 2012.
Mr. Gilmartin concluded, “the really critical issue is that most farms actually generate very low levels of income. Perhaps that explains why such farm families are very keen to get their children to go to third level in the expectation that the farm cannot provide a decent living. The evidence is clear that almost all cattle and sheep farms do not support an income anywhere near the cut-off for third level grants.”