IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey has accused the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of caving in on budget cuts, and not fighting the farmer’s case with his Cabinet colleagues.
Mr Downey was speaking following the Minister’s address to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture, in which the Minister admitted that cuts of over €350m to the Agriculture Budget are proposed for 2012.
Eddie Downey said, “The scale of the cuts proposed is totally unacceptable, and far in excess of any other Government Department. Cuts to any farm schemes will impact severely on farm incomes and farmers expect the Minister to fight their case in Government. It is not good enough for the Minister to accept these cuts for agriculture and to roll over to the demands of the Department of Public Expenditure.”
He continued, “The cuts proposed for the Agriculture budget represent a cut of over 20% on last year’s budgetary allocation, and not 12% as the Minister has suggested. It is disingenuous of Minister Coveney to include the Single Farm Payment as part of the Agriculture budget as the SFP is EU money and does not form part of the Department of Agriculture’s Exchequer allocation.”
Mr Downey said, “Farmers have already been hit in previous budgets through cuts to farm schemes, including the Disadvantaged Areas, Suckler Cow Scheme, the closure of REPS, a reduction in the forestry premium and suspension of the Early Retirement and Installation Aid schemes. Each of these cuts has directly impacted on their incomes, which, at less than €18,000 in 2010, are half of the average Industrial wage.”
He concluded, “Farmers expect the Minister to defend the pivotal role that farm schemes play in maintaining primary production and economic activity in rural Ireland. It is part of the Minister’s job to defend the sector at the Cabinet table,” he concluded.