The finance minister clashed with the Dáil Independent Rural Group over the costing of their proposed mini-budget.
MP Michael Collins, who is part of the group, asked yesterday (Wednesday February 23) for support to demand that the government hold an ‘urgent mini-budget to alleviate and address the spiraling cost of living crisis’ .
“The meager package of measures recently announced by the government is grossly insufficient given the depth and impact of the crisis,” said TD.
Among the Rural Independent Group’s demands was a €75m package for farmers, reversing a planned carbon tax hike and cutting excise duty on fuel by at least 50%, until the energy crisis is easing.
Michael Healy-Rae told the Dáil that the crippling costs of feed, fertilizer and fuel have the potential to “wipe out many viable farms”.
“If a thief had a choice between stealing a ball of money from a bank or stealing a pallet of fertilizer, the thief had better steal the pallet of fertilizer because it’s worth more,” Healy-Rae said.
Carol Nolan noted that the carbon tax affects all sectors, including farmers: “Agro-entrepreneurs cannot survive, given the level of tax imposed on them. This, of course, is passed on to the farmers.
Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae suggested the government consider a €100/t subsidy to help offset the cost of fertilizer for farmers, which he said would ‘reduce the cost of food for housewives’ .
“The government is in a bubble and it has to get out. It seems when they come to Dublin they think on a completely different wavelength,” said MP Richard O’Donoghue.
Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue told the debate that a range of measures had been proposed to support the Irish pig sector, including a €7million support scheme .
The minister said he was “extremely aware of the challenges many farmers will face this year”, adding that the government is “working hard to offset these increases”.
McConalogue said a ruling on anti-dumping levies on fertilizer imports from outside the European Union is “expected shortly”.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Rural Independent Group’s mini-budget proposals were “disrespectful at best to the challenges and needs of so many”.
“These measures are proposed without any recognition of the cost or the challenge of financing them. There are more than 3 billion euros worth of proposals here, with no idea or recognition of how they could be paid for or financed.
“The consequence of all this would be to aggravate the difficulties of others by increasing their debt,” the minister said.
The Minister said it was wrong to claim that the carbon tax is the main contributor to the rising cost of living in Ireland and noted that the agricultural sector is eligible for “double tax relief on revenue with respect to the carbon tax”.