Responding to the comments from the SFA who have called for the introduction of commercial rates for farmers, the ICMSA President, John Comer, described the idea as utterly unproductive and without any connection to reality. Mr Comer said that the thrust of the argument seemed to be although the rates system was in need of a “complete overhaul” and was therefore to be considered completely inefficient, that somehow extending this completely inefficient system to a whole new sector of our economy was somehow justified. He said that this proposal was illogical and more or less guaranteed to severely damage the one sector that claimed to be doing quite well at present.
“It seems to me that what is being advocated here is the idea that because one sector of Irish commerce is suffering under an unfair rates system that it somehow represents progress of sorts to spread that unfair system into all areas so that we can all operate under an unfair rates system. How that is meant to benefit the country is anyone’s guess. In the main, commercial rates are paid precisely because they are deemed to give the increased commercial opportunities that come with proximity to centres of population; rates are paid because of the footfall the local authority is estimating. That idea is null and void when applied to a farm which by its very nature is removed from population centres and where the concept of footfall is meaningless. This is the essential difference between a farm and an ordinary town or city retail business and it disqualifies the idea that there is equivalence”, stated Mr Comer.
“Farmers already pay huge amounts in terms of compliance with regulations and inspectorates – far in excess of the amounts paid by comparable businesses in other sectors. If the SFA wants to help the key export sectors – and we presume they do - then we would expect it to be making the case for the reform and abolition of all counter-productive and uneconomic charges rather than their extension into key export sectors. If the SFA thinks the commercial rates system is wrong or inefficient then they should advance arguments to change it or reform it – not to extend it”, concluded Mr Comer.