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Publication of Revised Estimates 22 February 2007 - €361M for REPS in Estimates

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, welcomed today's Revised Estimates for her Department which include a provision of €361m for the Rural Environment Protection Scheme. This is €33m more than the €328m announced last November in the context of the publication of the Abridged Estimates Volume.

Minister Coughlan said that REPS was a critical part of the framework of rural development measures designed to maximise the beneficial effect of farming on the environment. "This is a very important scheme", she said, "and the significant increase in provision for it reflects its increasing popularity among progressive farmers trying to do their bit for the environment, and at the same time maximising their incomes."

Commenting more generally on her Department's Estimate, the Minister said that the gross provision of almost €1.697 billion, was an increase of 18% on last year's provisional outturn, and reflected the Government's continued commitment to agriculture and the food industry. She said that the Estimate was consistent with the strategic framework for the development of the sector laid down in her Department's Agri Vision 2015 Action Plan, with a strong emphasis on innovation, competitiveness and consumer orientation.

Under the innovation heading, the €38.4 m in the Research and Training Subhead includes €14.9m for the Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM), which funds pre-commercial research by Public Research Institutes, and €8.5m for the Stimulus Fund, which provides grant assistance, on a competitive basis, for agri-production research. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Food Estimate includes more than €131 million in grant-in-aid to Teagasc to fund its research, training and advisory activities. Some €3.6m is provided as an initial contribution for bio-energy measures.

In relation to competitiveness, the €152.5m for the development of Agriculture and Food includes €42m for marketing and processing in the food and drinks industry, including funding for new investment in the dairy, beef and sheepmeat processing industries. Funding is also provided for investment at farm level, including almost €83m for Farm Waste Management, and almost €30m for general farm improvement, dairy hygiene, organic farming, horticulture, potatoes, alternative enterprises and investment in the poultry sector. In addition, more than €80m is provided for Schemes designed to address the structural weaknesses at farm level that can undermine competitiveness in the longer term, and €131m is provided for the development of the forestry sector, when the carryover of capital savings from 2006 is taken into account.

The Minister also referred to the strong consumer and market focus of her Department's Estimate, with more than €166m provided for food safety, public and animal health and welfare measures, that underpin the reputation our food industry for quality and safety. The Department also provides funding for quality assurance measures in the beef and sheep meat sectors, and in 2007, has provided a substantially increased provision of €26.5m for An Bord Bia, to assist it in providing strategic market intelligence and more focussed marketing activities, in the high value EU markets and those emerging in the Far East.

Apart from these measures, she pointed out that schemes such as REPS and measures to protect animal welfare, not only deliver direct benefits, but also support production systems that deliver the kind of products that customers in Europe are demanding.

Concluding, the Minister said that the agriculture and the food and drinks industry were critical components of the Irish economy, and that her Department would continue to target resources in a strategic way to develop a vibrant and sustainable sector capable of meeting the complex demands of modern consumers while providing a strong economic return for the production and processing sectors.

22 February 2007

Date Released: 22 February 2007