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The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Ltd today welcomed the budget announcement by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.

ICOS represents over 130 co-operatives in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.

ICOS President, Martin Keane welcomed the overall budgetary package for the farming community as “targeted, balanced and fair”.

Mr. Keane stated that changes to income tax including the ‘Earned Income Tax Credit’ for the self-employed is a very welcome initiative. According to Mr. Keane, “the Earned Income Tax Credit to the value of €550 is a welcome initial first step by the Government to ensure equity and fairness in the income tax system.”

ICOS also welcomed initiatives in today’s budget to extend stock relief measures for a further three years and actions to support farm succession.

Mr. Keane added “Budgetary supports related to farm succession are extremely welcome as targeted agri taxation measures can assist with succession planning and improving the age profile of the farming sector, which is a critical challenge facing the entire agri-food sector.

“The agri-food sector stands to benefit from the Knowledge Development Box proposal with a reduced rate of corporation tax for R&D spend. This is a positive measure which will enable the entire food industry to develop new products, add value and compete internationally, which ultimately will deliver the best possible return for farmers.

“ICOS also welcomes the announcement by Minister Howlin to allocate additional funding to support agri-environmental and capital investment schemes under the Rural Development Programme. In addition, funding for a range of new schemes under the Seafood Development Programme is also welcome.”

However, Mr. Keane expressed disappointment at the exclusion of an income deferral scheme in this year’s budget.

Mr. Keane stated,  “We believe that an opportunity was missed to provide for measures to help farmers to manage volatility in this year’s budget.  A suite of volatility measures including taxation initiatives will be required to help farmers cope with fluctuations in milk price. ICOS urges the government to give greater consideration to the possibility of an income deferral scheme and we will continue to engage with government on this matter.”