THE IFA and the disadvantaged areas community group Irish Rural Link are at loggerheads over how best to distribute European funds to support community development in rural Ireland.
Speaking at the annual Irish Rural Link conference in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath yesterday, the group’s chief executive, Seamus Boland, said that 95% of EU payments to Ireland under CAP go to agriculture, the bulk of this going to “the very rich”.
Mr Boland said: “IRL is calling for revisions of the CAP to ensure that the Leader Axis receives a significantly larger share of funding, and that bureaucracy is reduced for greater ease of access to funding, particularly in light of confusion about funding for food businesses.”
However, IFA president John Bryan rejected this stance, saying it was misleading, inaccurate and without basis.
Mr Bryan said: “This organisation is looking for increased Leader funding as part of the post-2013 CAP review. Ironically, Leader funding made available to Ireland under the current Rural Development Plan has not been drawn down; 75% remains unspent from an allocation of €466m, which illustrates the lack of impact by the organisations that Irish Rural Link claims to represent.”
He said agriculture has demonstrated the capacity to generate economic activity and jobs and contributes €8 billion in exports to the economy.
“The Government’s Food Harvest 2020 Strategy identifies growth potential for the agri-food sector that would increase exports by 50% to €12bn.
“This is clear evidence of the effectiveness of the agricultural sector to deliver a strong return on investment from the various farm schemes under CAP,” he added.
IFA rural development chairman Tom Turley challenged IRL to bring forward any proposals that would match the performance of agriculture.
Mr Turley said: “IFA’s clear message is that EU funding targeted at active producers will convert into tangible benefits for the rural economy. During the negotiations in the coming months, the Government must not be distracted by spurious arguments around where EU funding should be directed.”
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