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Abridged Estimates for Department of Agriculture and Food 2007

- €1.7bn package for Agriculture -

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced a gross Estimates provision of €1.638 billion for her Department for 2007. In addition, the Minister signalled her intention to carry forward capital savings of in excess of €20.2 million from 2006, bringing the total voted funding available to her Department next year to €1.658 billion. This is an increase of €227m, or 16%, over the projected gross outturn in 2006.

The 2007 Abridged Estimate includes the first year's funding for a significantly enhanced package of rural development and farm waste management measures, following the recent conclusion of partnership discussions with the farm organisations. The measures finalised at Partnership involve agriculture related schemes worth €6.8 billion over the period 2007-2013, including Exchequer funding of €4.7 billion. This is an increase of 135% in the €2 billion exchequer contribution to agriculture related rural development measures compared to the previous programme. The agriculture measures in the new Rural Development programme will also attract €2.1 billion from the EU and modulation.

Welcoming the increased Exchequer funding for her Department, Minister Coughlan highlighted the very significant provisions under the main Rural Development schemes. These include:

  • €257m in subhead E for Income Supports in Disadvantaged Areas, the rates for which are being increased by 8%, following the Partnership negotiations;
  • €328m in subhead F for REPs, for which a 17% increase in rates has been agreed;
  • €79m in subhead G for Early Retirement and Installation Aid schemes which, under the new Rural Development Programme, will involve a maximum payment of €15,000 under each scheme;
  • €114m in subhead L for the Forestry Programme, for which a 15% increase in premium rates has been agreed.

In addition, almost €147 m is provided under Subhead H for schemes for the development of agriculture and food, ranging from on farm investment schemes such as The Farm Waste Management and Dairy Hygiene Schemes to measures for the development of marketing and processing capability in the agri food sector. A total of €42m is provided under the latter measure compared to €9m in 2006, in order to accommodate the recently announced capital investment schemes in the dairy, beef and sheep-meat sectors. Together, these schemes will involve €150 million in State support, and are intended to stimulate some €420 million in gross capital investment necessary to equip these sectors to develop their strengths and ensure their long-term viability in a hugely competitive and challenging markets.

The Minister also drew attention to a new provision of €18m in subhead C, for an important initiative aimed at improving welfare and quality in the suckler herd. The Suckler Cow Herd Welfare and Quality Scheme is included in the draft Rural Development Programme and, subject to EU approval, will involve an exchequer provision of some €250m over the next seven years. Referring to the scheme, Minister Coughlan said that this was part of a structured and coherent approach to the beef sector, designed to enable it to meet the significant challenges and exploit the opportunities available over the coming decade;

Noting that many of the rural development and investment schemes operated by her Department were demand led, the Minister indicated that she would use the additional €20.2m available to her from the carryover of capital savings, to provide additional funding in 2007 for the areas where the need was greatest.

The Minister also referred to a number of other significant features in her Department's Vote for 2007. These include:

  • An additional €4.1m to assist An Bord Bia in delivering its Strategic Vision Plan, including strategic market intelligence and marketing activities and programmes geared to the sustainable development of the Irish food, drinks and horticulture sectors at a time of huge market and competitive challenges, when identification of emerging opportunities was crucial to development.
  • An increased contribution of €8.5m to the World Food Programme, which is an important part of Ireland's Overseas Development Aid commitment. This Programme provides food in the most efficient and direct way possible to some of the neediest people in the world.
  • Minister Coughlan said that the 2007 Estimate for her Department was a well balanced package, which, along with the €1.5 billion or so in EU funded direct payments and market supports administered by her Department, provided a sound strategic platform for securing the future of the agri food sector and enabling it to continue to play its vital role in the Irish economy.

The Minister also referred to the need for continued innovation in the agriculture sector. She indicated that apart from the very substantial contribution to Teagasc Research through the Grant in Aid provision, the estimate for her Department included €34m under subhead B for research and training, including an expanded food research programme, as well as €4m for research in the forestry area. Her Department had highlighted the need for increased investment in research and development in the agri food sector, through its contribution to the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation and was currently in the process of identifying priorities for research in cross-cutting themes such as food and health for consideration by an inter departmental committee. She also said that she viewed the agriculture sector as a key player in the development of bio-fuels policies and indicated that her Department was playing an active role, along with the Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources and other departments, in the development of the National Bio-energy Action Plan.

Concluding, she urged all those involved in the agri-food sector, farmers and processors, as well as the whole production and distribution chain, to think in a strategic way, and to make maximum use of the tremendous opportunities now available, through the very generous schemes administered by her Department, to invest in their businesses, re-structure their farm enterprises, maximise their incomes and secure the future for themselves and the sector generally.

16 November, 2006

Date Released: 16 November 2006