IFA Rural Development Chairman Tom Turley has said that upcoming proposals on CAP reform must recognise the impact that Pillar II Rural Development measures play in supporting farmers and the rural economy.
Mr. Turley said that a crucial aspect of the reform proposals is the allocation of funding for Pillar II measures. In the forthcoming negotiations, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must secure a level of funding which reflects past performance and the need to support agriculture’s role in the rural economy. In the current Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013, Ireland will draw down €350m per annum, or almost €2.5bn over the 7 year period.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said that schemes such as the Disadvantaged Areas,
agri-environment schemes, farm investment and other farm development supports are vital to farmers and complement farming support from Pillar I Single Farm Payment.
Mr. Turley said that the recent EU Court of Auditors report on agri-environment support recognises that farmers are crucial for the implementation of agri-environment programmes and the importance of ongoing support post-2013. The Government must use this report to implement an effective REPS/AEOS type scheme in the next Plan from 2014 to 2020. Over 60,000 farmers have participated in agri-environment programmes over the last 16 years and this must now be built upon.
“The Rural Development Plan also presents an opportunity to implement investment programmes that improve competitiveness and efficiency at farm level,” he said.
The Disadvantaged Areas review will also be part of the reform proposals. Mr. Turley said that the change in the criteria from socio-economic to natural handicap must ensure that all existing areas are protected through the Government seeking the necessary flexibilities in the negotiations. Mr. Turley welcomed the fact that Ireland’s high level of rainfall is recognised as a criteria, which IFA had sought in discussions with the EU Commission. The proposal whereby at least 66% of the DED must have the natural handicap must be reduced to 50%.
Concluding, Mr. Turley said that Rural Development measures are vital to most farmers whether through income or investment supports and Minister Coveney must ensure that the menu of measures in the EU regulations which will be launched on October 12<sup>th</sup> are fully implemented from 2014 onwards.