By Joe Dermody
The IFA has urged Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to use a projected €106m underspend in the €4bn Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 to fund existing and new farm schemes.
The IFA wants the full RDP fund, made up of €2bn in EU funds and and the remainder from national funds, to be paid into schemes to ease the income crisis in Irish farming.
IFA analysis of RDP spending to date and projected spending to 2020 suggests that while some schemes will spend most of their allocation, there will inevitably be underspends in others.
IFA president Joe Healy stated: “While there have been well publicised annual underspends in the Rural Development Programme, the minister has always said that this funding will be made up by increased spending in the later years of the programme.
“However, our analysis shows that as we are into the second half of the programme that this will not happen and there is a likelihood that there will be a significant underspend.
The IFA has proposed increases to the agri-environment schemes: The annual ANC budget to increase to €300m; and the maximum payment under Glas to be doubled to €10,000 with higher payments for farmers who have designated land.
The IFA has also proposed a wide-ranging farm investment scheme; and, a retirement scheme for farmers who pass the farm to the next generation.
Meanwhile, earlier this week in a Dáil debate, Kerry Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae asked Mr Creed to clarify his plans for RDP funding in relation to the suckler industry.
The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is the main support for the suckler sector, providing €300m to Irish beef farmers under the current RDP.
To date, €135m has been paid out through the scheme.
The BDGP is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability by increasing genetic merit within the national herd. Suckler farmers also benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I.
“There are no surplus funds available within the RDP above and beyond the funding already allocated, which has been committed to existing schemes within the RDP,” said Mr Creed.
“Every scheme, or scheme adjustment, under the RDP must be justified and approved by the European Commission on the basis of additional actions and income foregone by farmers.
“Any allocation of funding under Pillar I of the CAP for a coupled payment would in principle require a linear reduction to all existing farmers Basic Payment Scheme payments for redistribution.
“I am not of the view that taking already committed money from farmers under the CAP is an appropriate means by which to support suckler farmers.”