Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Gabriel Gilmartin has warned the Minister for Agriculture on the need to secure 50/50 co-funding for the Rural Development Programme.
Mr Gilmartin said the Minister must ensure that he fights for full co-funding of vital Pillar 2 schemes as a priority.
“It would be unconscionable for Minister Coveney to accept anything less than 50/50 co-funding for rural development. He must ensure that the Department of Public Expenditure is fully aware of the value and necessity of maximising the allocation for the Pillar 2 schemes.”
A decision on the level of Exchequer funding to be made available for the Rural Development Programme (RDP) is due this week. Mr Gilmartin had harsh criticism for recent suggestions by Minister Coveney that the decision could be based on the €405 million allocated for the RDP this year.
“It is misleading for the Minister to refer to this year’s allocation as an acceptable reference point for future funding levels. The 2013 figure is an extraordinarily low baseline and reflects the fact that we have been operating under an EU/IMF programme for the past number of years. However, post-Troika, we need a more ambitious RDP reflecting the Government’s positive soundings on exiting the bailout.”
“The Minister knows well that any cuts to Pillar 2 funding would hit low-income farming families the hardest. These farms have already seen their small incomes reduced through cuts to vital schemes like the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and REPS, with AEOS a mere shadow of the original REPS and no agri-environment scheme at all open for 2014 entrants.”
“Minister Coveney would be making a serious error if he accepts anything less than full co-funding,” Mr Gilmartin concluded.