The 2012 Action Plan for Jobs sets out a range of actions which will be progressed throughout 2012; the first quarter progress report was produced last month. One of the actions relevant to my Department is to implement the incentives and measures to improve skills, farm structures and scale set out in Budget 2012.
In relation to upskilling at farm level, the main drivers are the Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP) and the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP). Both programmes are designed to equip farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the productivity and profitability of their dairy and beef enterprises. Utilising a discussion group format, these programmes are designed to upskill participants by introducing them to peer best practice and improved technology using the BETTER farms system and key profit drivers such as financial and grassland management, animal breeding, herd health and producing to market specifications. In 2011, around 6,000 participants were involved in the DEP, while over 7,000 farmers have applied to participate in BTAP, which was launched last February.
On Farm Structures, The Minister for Finance introduced a number of measures in Budget 2012 to both stimulate land sales and transfers and to incentivise farm partnerships so as to increase productivity and scale at farm level. These include an enhanced 50% stock relief tax relief for all registered farm partnerships and a 100% stock relief for certain young trained farmers forming such partnerships, up until 31st December 2015. There was also a reduction on the stamp duty rate from 6% to 2%, on agricultural land to promote inter-generational transfer and the transfer to more active producers. In addition, the Capital Gains Tax retirement relief was restructured in order to incentivise the earlier transfer of farm assets to the next generation and to encourage the sale of land by those farmers with no successors. Limited exemption from income tax on the net rental profits from long term farmland leasing is available to encourage long term leasing which gives leasees the time frame necessary to invest in and improve the land.
In addition Teagasc and my Department have planned a major promotional campaign, to take place over the next few months, directed at encouraging a range of collaborative farming arrangements including partnerships. Steps are also being taken to overcome the administrative and legal hurdles which may exist to the formation of formal farm partnerships outside the dairy sector.