IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to ensure that the full allocation of EU and National funds is utilised in the Rural Development plan which will be implemented following EU approval later in the year.
Speaking following a meeting at the Department of Agriculture in Backweston on the consultation on the draft proposal, Flor McCarthy said the schemes must be available to farmers in the autumn of this year, particularly the new GLAS scheme and the farm investment TAMS scheme.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman pointed out that the annual allocations in the book of estimates for 2015 must reflect the fact that more farmers will be joining the agri-environment scheme and that commitments will be made in relation to farm investment across a wide range of sectors.
In relation to the GLAS scheme, Flor McCarthy pointed out that changes are required to the proposals on the table at this stage. These changes include an increase in the maximum payment of €5,000 and that farmers with SACs and commonages are allowed into the GLAS plus scheme where the additional €2,000 payment is available. In addition the 80% commonage stocking rule to join the scheme is impractical and must be changed.
Given that 30,000 farmers will have left REPS 4 by the end of the year, the GLAS scheme must be available to a large number of farmers in the early years given that the Minister failed to rollover REPS 4 farmers who are finishing at the end of 2013. This could allow 20,000 farmers into the GLAS scheme in 2015, and during the 7-year RDP, 50,000 farmers will be in a position to join the new scheme.
On the farm investment schemes Flor McCarthy said that the list of items eligible for grant aid must cover all sectors and that the tranche system should be flexible enough to move monies in the course of the programme into areas where there is a bigger demand.
He has welcomed the opportunity that the Rural Development plan allows to target specific supports to island farmers. This can be done through higher grant rates and payment rates across a wide range of schemes.
Concluding, Flor McCarthy said that the Rural Development plan is an opportunity to put in place a support structure to agriculture which underpins production, supports jobs in rural areas and boosts economic activity across the rural economy.