1st March, 2013
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has reiterated its opposition to changes in the student grant means test, and says TDs arguing in favour of including farm assets in it have no real understanding of the reality of farm incomes.
Responding to fresh calls by a number of backbench TDs that the value of farm assets, such as land and buildings, be taken into account when assessing eligibility for the grant, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said, “ICSA is absolutely opposed to any change which would mean anything other than income is assessed. Capital assets do not equal money in the bank. It’s clear to me that there is a frightening lack of understanding among some members of the Dáil about the nature of farming incomes.”
“In 2011, just 15 per cent of farms had an income greater than €50,000. The changes being proposed clearly discriminate against the huge percentage of farm families that have consistently low incomes and who need and deserve the grant. In particular, cattle and sheep farmers have very low incomes. According to Teagasc, the very largest cattle and sheep farms (in the 50 – 100 hectare bracket) earned an average of less than €31,000 in 2011, which falls well below the threshold for receiving the grant.”
Mr Gilmartin said, “It worries me that there is still a notion, particularly among urban TDs, that the land and buildings which a farmer needs to feed and shelter his livestock, are seen as a pot of gold that he could simply turn into cash to fund his child’s education. ICSA is urging these TDs, in the strongest terms possible, to take an unblinkered look at the reality of farming income because if they do, they will see that including farm assets in the means test would be unbearably unfair on farm families.”
“I would also question why it is we haven’t seen the report from the Capital Assets Implementation Group, which was due to be published last summer but has been continuously delayed, causing huge stress and worry for farming families. Many are now wondering if they will be able to afford to send their children to third level education, which is a sorry reflection on the attitude of the Government towards rural families,” Mr Gilmartin concluded.
*See ICSA’s submission to the Capital Assets Implementation Group here