IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has said that the failure in yesterday’s Budget to rollover the REPS 4 plans of 13,000 farmers whose contracts finish at the end of the year is a major blow to low-income farmers who will be without an agri-environment payment in 2014. This is also a significant blow to farmers who have environmental designations on their farms and who are forced to farm under severe restrictions without compensation.
Mr McCarthy said, “The promise by Minister Coveney that he will have a scheme for these farmers in 2015 is not acceptable as it will result in the farmers having no payment in 2014. Payments under any new scheme would not arise until the end of 2015 at the earliest and this will mean that there will be a serious income crisis on these farms”.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said that a rollover of the REPS 4 is possible under EU Rural Development legislation while using the new Rural Development funding under the recently negotiated CAP deal.
Flor McCarthy said Minister Coveney is presiding over a situation where for the first time in 20 years an agri-environment scheme has not been available to farmers. “Farmers with designated SACs, SPAs and Commonages will be forced to farm under severe restrictions without compensation if measures are not immediately put in place for 2104. Agri-environment payments are a vital support to many farmers particularly drystock farmers and their continuation is vital to ensure farm incomes are at least maintained.”
Concluding, Flor McCarthy said that Minister Coveney must deliver on 50:50 co-financing with national top-ups in the CAP Rural Development Plan 2014 -2020 to ensure meaningful Agri-Environment and Disadvantaged Areas schemes are implemented over the next 7 years.