The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has emphasized the urgent need for supports for contractors in Budget 2024. Ann Gleeson Hanrahan, the managing director of FCI, made these remarks during an Agriland livestream from the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co. Laois on Thursday, September 21.
According to Hanrahan, agricultural contractors currently do not receive any government support, and she believes they should have access to the same benefits as farmers. She stated, “We are an agricultural entity and sector so we should be able to access the same supports as farmers. Not to take from the farmers, let the farmers have their supports, but we should receive supports as well.”
Hanrahan highlighted the increasing price of fuel as one of the major challenges faced by agricultural contractors. Since February of this year, the price of diesel has risen by 14 cents per liter, including excise duty but excluding VAT. This increase has resulted in an additional cost of €50 million for contractors. Machinery costs have also risen by 30% since 2019, and the cost of parts has seen a 100% increase in some cases.
In light of these financial burdens, Hanrahan stressed the need for government support in the upcoming budget. She explained, “In the budget, we do need to be getting some sort of supports, if they want contractors to continue in contracting. Our age profile is 50 upwards. The number of contractors, especially last year, that are getting out of the business is phenomenal, and they’re not being replaced. So who’s going to do the work? Contractors are under pressure with work as it is.”
The FCI has also expressed concerns about the new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), which they believe is detrimental to agricultural contractors. The exclusion of contractors from the scheme has led the FCI to accuse the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) of attempting to “target the total elimination” of the sector by undermining profitability.
Hanrahan also emphasized the need for training to address the current shortage of skilled workers in the agricultural contracting sector. She stated that there is a “serious need” to bridge this gap and ensure the availability of skilled labor.
Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced an extension of the slurry spreading period by one week. This decision was made in response to the difficult conditions faced by farmers in recent weeks due to adverse weather. The closed period for slurry spreading will now begin on October 8.
McConalogue stated, “This limited extension will allow farmers to spread any remaining slurry in the best conditions available to them.” The FCI had previously called for an extension of the slurry spreading date, as Hanrahan warned that without it, farmers’ slurry tanks would be full “well before” the slurry spreading window opens again in early 2024.
In conclusion, the FCI is urging the government to provide supports for agricultural contractors in Budget 2024. They believe that contractors should have access to the same benefits as farmers and that the current exclusion from schemes such as TAMS is detrimental to the sector. Additionally, the FCI highlights the rising costs of fuel, machinery, and parts as major challenges faced by contractors. They also stress the need for training to address the shortage of skilled workers in the agricultural contracting sector. The extension of the slurry spreading period has been welcomed by the FCI, as it allows farmers to make the most of the available conditions.