Farmers will not accept any dilution of national funding for vital schemes, the Irish Farmers’ Association has warned.
John Bryan, president, said schemes for disadvantaged areas, the agri-environment and farm investment are vital to ensure that agriculture continues to play a crucial role in the economy.
The EU has allocated Ireland €313m of Pillar II Rural Development funding per annum over the next seven years.
He said the IFA has already set out the targets for the minister to draw down this funding with 50% national finance — with national top-ups — to give an annual allocation of €660m.
Mr Bryan said the Government has the opportunity in the Rural Development Plan to address the income concerns of many farmers who depend to a great extent on Pillar II payments — particularly in vulnerable sectors and regions.
In relation to farmer investment, it is important that investment aid across all sectors is available to help the farmers meet Food Harvest 2020 targets, fulfil higher environment and welfare standards, and to improve farm efficiency, he said.
Mr Bryan said the next couple of weeks are crucial for funding commitments as the RDP has to be lodged in Brussels by early 2014, with measures being implemented later in the year.
He said the IFA will hold a major rally in the Mullingar Park Hotel on Nov 19 as part of its campaign to highlight the issue.
Mr Bryan said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney must deliver 50:50 national co-financing to complement EU funding and ensure the seven-year CAP Rural Development Plan has a meaningful impact for farming and rural Ireland.
Meanwhile, the issue was raised with the minister in the Dáil this week by TDs Denis Naughten and Éamon Ó Cuív who asked what his plans are.
Mr Coveney said work is currently ongoing to design the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) for 2014–2020.
In designing the new RDP, his department must take account of a range of requirements set out in the draft regulation and the need to support key policy aims for the agri-food sector.
The draft regulation sets out a menu of possible measures for the new RDP. Co-funding rates vary between the different measures.
Final decisions in relation to what measures are to be included in the new RDP have not yet been made.
Work is continuing on designing the new RDP on the basis of the requirements set out in the draft regulation.
As part of this process, his department is in ongoing contact with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the overall financing that will be required.
“I expect to make decisions in relation to the RDP by the end of this year, and to submit a draft programme to the Commission in early 2014,” he said.
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