Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) President Joe Healy welcomed much of today's Budget, claiming that the Government responded positively to their farm income campaign over the last six months.

Mr Healy said 2016 has been a very difficult year for farm families with low commodity prices, poor weather conditions and the impact of the Brexit decision.

The IFA President welcomed the introduction of a new €150m agri cashflow support loan fund, at an interest rate of 2.95%, which is to be available to farmers in all sectors.

However, he added: "The decision to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit by only €400 to €950 falls short of the €1,650 PAYE allowance and this must be reached in next year's Budget to remove discrimination against farmers and the self-employed".

He noted the excise rate on agri-diesel and all road fuels remains unchanged, reflecting the importance of maintaining our cost competitiveness in the aftermath of Brexit.

The IFA chief added the new flexibility under income averaging, to be introduced for the current year, recognises the impact of price volatility and will help farmers to manage the very difficult cash-flow situation on farms.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Dáil that he will extend the 'Start Your Own Business' scheme for a further two years at a cost to the Exchequer of €4m.

Mr Noonan said its continuation will be of real benefit in providing support to long-term unemployed people who wish to create new businesses.

The revised entrepreneur relief - introduced last year - will also be improved by reducing the 20% rate of Capital Gains Tax to 10% on disposals of qualifying assets up to a limit of €1m in chargeable gains. This will cost €13m.

Mr Noonan said that the €1m lifetime limit will be reviewed in future Budgets.

Noting that farming and the agri-food sector has been going through a tough time recently due to lower world prices, weather and Brexit, Mr Noonan said that he will allow a farmer facing an exceptionally poor year to "step out" of income averaging. 

Instead they will pay only the tax due on a current year basis with any deferred tax liability becoming payable over subsequent years. 

He also said that he will extend farm restructuring relief to run to the end of 2019 - the relief had been due to run to the end of this year. 

To further support farmers, Mr Noonan said that farmers will have access to a loan fund that will be lost cost, below 3% a year and highly flexible. 

He also told the Dáil that under the new raised bog restoration incentive scheme to relevant owners and rights holders will be exempt from Capital Gains Tax. This will cost €2m.

Fine Gael’s Pat Deering said: "This Budget delivers for farmers and is another important step forward in supporting rural Ireland."