Speaking at IFA’s Executive Council meeting in Dublin today (Wed), John Bryan said attempts by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to downplay what can be secured for the next Rural Development Programme (RDP) will not wash with farm families.
John Bryan said Minister Coveney is incorrect when he says much less than 50% of Government funding has applied under the existing RDP. For example, in this year’s Rural Development Programme alone, over 60% comes from the national exchequer. He said this is another example of the Minister presenting figures in a confusing and distorted fashion, which will not distract farmers from the reality.
Historically, Government funding for the Rural Development Programme has been very strong. With farm incomes in vulnerable sectors and regions under real pressure, and the rural economy in such a fragile state, the need for 50:50 co-financing with national top-ups is fully justified.
The IFA President said the bulk of the existing Rural Development Programme is at a national funding rate of 50% or more. “At a recent meeting, Minister Coveney confirmed that he is demanding 50:50 co-funding, in line with the IFA plan, for the Rural Development Programme. He must deliver this at the Cabinet table.”
He said, “The Rural Development Plan (RDP) is an opportunity for the Government to deliver significant funding into the rural economy. Foreign direct investment is concentrated in urban areas and a fully-funded RDP can place rural Ireland at the centre of its recovery strategy of increasing jobs and economic activity in all parts of the country. With this week’s CSO figures supporting the critical role that agriculture is playing in jobs growth, the Government must underpin this sector with a strong Rural Development Programme”.
John Bryan said, “The Government must provide 50:50 co-funding, with national top ups, to provide a combined EU/national annual budget of €660m under CAP Pillar II measures. The IFA campaign has prioritised strong farm schemes to support vulnerable sectors and regions, and low-income farmers”.
The IFA President said investment under the Rural Development Programme underpins production across all regions of the country, through schemes such as Disadvantaged Areas, Agri-Environment (REPS/AEOS), Suckler Cow and Sheep payments and farm investment aid for on-farm modernisation and efficiency.
John Bryan said, “The next three weeks are vital as decisions have to be made on both Pillar I and Pillar II supports. A Rural Development Plan will have to be submitted to Brussels by early 2014. In our submission, IFA has set out a broad outline of measures, which will underpin agriculture and rural areas across the country. Strong Government funding for the Rural Development Plan will add to the contribution that the sector makes to the wider economy”.
Mr Bryan said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must deliver at the Cabinet table, as Budget cuts in recent years have had a serious impact on the incomes of the most vulnerable sectors of farming.