Extra €1m for retirement scheme

OVER €1 million in limited additional funding is being provided for the Early Retirement Scheme in farming.

Announcing the move, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith said it was with a view to accepting as many as possible of those applications that were completed or close to completion at the time entry to the scheme was suspended last October.

“The additional funding will allow a number of new applications to be accepted, limited by reference to the amount of the additional funding now available. I have consistently said that I would like to see those applications that were completed or close to completion when entry to the scheme was suspended, progressed as soon as budgetary conditions allow,” he said. Farmers may submit applications for the scheme on or before October 30.

Because of the limited number of applications that can be accepted, the minister said there is no guarantee that all completed applications received by that date will be accepted.

He said any decision about further reopening the scheme would be taken only in the context of the annual budget-estimates process.

Macra na Feirme president Michael Gowing welcomed the provision of additional funding for transitional cases under the scheme which is, he said, an important vehicle for the transfer of land to young farmers.

Sinn Féin agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris, TD, meanwhile, claimed there is a “huge level of anger” around the country regarding the plight of farmers, fishermen and rural communities.

He launched a 60-page report that he compiled on the future of farming and fishing in the west of Ireland. The report, which has been endorsed by the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, calls for recently announced cuts to the sector to be reversed. It also calls for a complete reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Mr Ferris said the report is particularly important in the context of the current economic situation and the opportunities as well as the problems facing farming and fishing.

He said one of its key themes is that there ismajor scope to place more emphasis on the indigenous rural economy.

Meanwhile, IFA Grain Committee chairman Colum McDonnell warned that the future viability of grain growing in Ireland was in doubt as growers took a financial hit two years running while the industry shored up its margins.

“No industry can sustain the unprecedented level of losses that growers have experienced over the last two years as prices hit a 30-year low.

“The situation has been further compounded by the atrocious weather over the last two growing seasons and less than ideal ground conditions, which has impacted negatively on yields.

“The majority of growers would have been financially better off had they left the land fallow,” he said.

The turnout at the championships was described by Labour agriculture and food spokesperson Seán Sherlock as a clear indicator that agri-business can lead the way to economic recovery.

But cuts in vital schemes and the political response to the dairy sector showed that the Government has shifted its base away from rural to urban priorities, he said.


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