IFA President John Bryan has intensified the Association’s campaign to secure 50:50 co-financing from the National Exchequer for the next Rural Development Programme, which he said is a very important part of CAP Reform. The Rural Development Programme provides vital income support for thousands of farmers in vulnerable regions and sectors and the provision of environmental goods and services by farmers.
Under the proposed EU Budget for 2014-2020, Ireland will receive an EU funding allocation for Rural Development of approximately €313m each year for seven years. The Government must now come forward to match this funding, with additional top-ups. This is necessary to draw down EU funding in full, and ensure we have a Programme in place to support farmers and the rural economy.
John Bryan said he had met the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the matter this week. He urged him to make it a priority for the Government and make an immediate announcement on the national support that will be provided for the Rural Development programme.
The IFA President said, “This commitment would send a positive signal to the farming community, particularly those who have been most affected by cuts in funding to farm schemes over the past six difficult national budgets. It would also allow a more informed debate to take place in relation to both Pillar I and Pillar II. This is critically important to ensure that the current debate is balanced and takes account of all aspects of the CAP.”
John Bryan said Rural Development operates as a complementary structure to the Single Farm Payment, and plays a hugely important role in the farm enterprises in certain sectors and regions. For example, under the REPS programme, 80% of participants came from the livestock and sheep sectors.
He said, “The REPS programme involved significant support for environmental works on farms which generated huge economic spin-off in the rural economy, and in particular in the West of Ireland. The Disadvantaged Areas scheme acts as a vital income support for farms operating in marginal land area, maintaining farm activity and output and contributing to rural areas which otherwise would be under serious threat”.
Commitments on funding would ensure a properly supported Disadvantaged Areas scheme would be retained, along with agri-environment programmes, including an upland scheme and funding for farmers who are restricted in Natura and SAC areas. For young farmers, installation aid could be reintroduced, providing an important funding support as they commence their careers.
Other innovative measures such as discussion and producer groups and measures for on-farm investment could be supported, leading to an improvement in the overall productivity and efficiency of farm enterprises. These on-farm investments would contribute to the targets for expansion set out under Food Harvest 2020.