The two-day EU rural development conference, which concluded in Cork yesterday, presented opportunities to Brussels. That is the view of the IFA, which urged Brussels to reverse Rural Development Programme budget cuts and put in place support measures to address the low-income crisis on farms and the economic decline of many rural areas.
IFA Rural Development Committee chairman Joe Brady said that, while the Irish economy is recovering and jobs are being created, many rural areas are being left behind.
A second Cork Declaration elaborating a rural development blueprint for the 21st century was the focus of the conference. The first Cork Declaration of 20 years ago led to rural development being adopted by Brussels as the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy.
European agriculture and rural development commissioner Phil Hogan said a new Cork Declaration can raise awareness for empowering rural areas and make people realise that a sustainable urban development depends on the prosperity of rural areas.
Despite the passage of time, many of the challenges faced 20 years ago remain relevant today, he said.
“There are still disparities between urban and rural areas in terms of GDP, employment, and access to services,” said Mr Hogan.
“To bridge this gap, we need to make a strong case that rural areas have a lot to offer as partners to urban areas. Urban and rural areas are mutually dependent on each other.”
Mr Hogan said there is a need to ensure rural areas are attractive places to live and work if the youth drain is to be reduced.
Agriculture and forestry are crucial for keeping rural areas socially, economically and environmentally viable and attractive. Even though there are fewer jobs in the primary sector, the importance of the related value chain for the rural economy remains essential, he said.
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