IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy has said that the recent proposals by the EU Commission on CAP transitional rules will allow all area based schemes including agri-environment and Disadvantaged Areas to continue in 2014 under the current Rural Development rules.
Speaking following a meeting of the EU Advisory Committee on Rural Development in Brussels, Flor McCarthy said there is now an opportunity for the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to make a proposal to extend the REPS 4 agri-environment contracts of 13,000 farmers whose plans finish at the end of this year. The EU Commission has informed IFA that it is possible to extend the contract by a further year, but a request must be made by the member state.
Flor McCarthy said it is vitally important that there is continuity with agri-environment schemes. “By extending the REPS 4 contract these farmers would avoid a gap period until a new agri-environment scheme is introduced in the new 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan.”
In relation to the review of Disadvantaged Areas, Flor McCarthy said that recent flexibility agreed at Council of Ministers should allow all existing areas to continue to be designated under the new criteria of Natural Handicaps.
He said, “With EU funding for Rural Development in the period 2014-2020 agreed at €313m per annum, it is now vital that a Government commitment on 50% national co-financing is made without further delay. Such a commitment would allow the total CAP package, both Pillar I and Pillar II, to be agreed later this year which would put agriculture on a more sound support footing over the next 7 years”.