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€207 Million for new Investment Measures in Irish Agriculture as part of a revised Rural Development Programme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD today announced proposals for spending €207 million in EU funding for Irish farmers over the next four years.  These proposals relate to the use of unspent Single Payment Scheme and Modulation funds and the European Economic Recovery Programme from 2010.  The Minister said that his proposals reflected the outcome of consultations with the various stakeholders over recent months.

Additionally, Minister Smith confirmed details of a new €113 million targeted scheme for on-farm investment to support a number of specific categories of farmers and focused on supporting productive investment.  The new scheme includes

  • €45 million for young dairy farmers to make the necessary investment to adjust to expanding dairy opportunities and promote the operation of cost-effective commercial operations by young farmers;
  • €13 million for pig producers to assist in the conversion to loose housing for sows;
  • €16 million for poultry producers to assist in the conversion to enriched cages, free range or barn systems;
  • €8 million for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities will be put in place, to assist sheep farmers in reducing labour input in a vulnerable sector;
  • €20 million to assist in meeting Ireland's renewable energy target and to double the area of willow and miscanthus planted by 2012;
  • €8 million is being targeted at young trained farmers for water harvesting and conservation equipment, which will reduce water costs on farms.
  • €1 million for the establishment of a central milk testing laboratory that will provide enhanced milk testing and lower capital and running costs in the dairy sector.

The Minister pointed out that the scheme amounts are indicative at this stage.  These schemes will however be cash limited and subject to approval by the EU Commission.

In addition to the on-farm investment measures, the Minister also announced his spending proposals for the use of the unspent Single Payment Scheme funds.  These funds are part of the Irish national envelope for the Single Payment Scheme which until now could not be accessed.  Under last year's Health Check agreement, it was agreed that these funds could be released to Member States to target at specific areas or sectors.

The Minister said he had considered carefully the submissions submitted by stakeholders and he had decided on the following spending plans, which include

  • €18 million each year for the next three years on a measure to support incomes in the sheep sector;
  • €6 million each year for the next three years on a scheme to encourage a significant improvement in efficiencies on dairy farms;
  • €1 million each year for three years to support high environmental value farming, with tourism spin-off, in the Burren, continuing and mainstreaming the pilot scheme operated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

In view of the current budgetary situation and the increase, over the past year, from 46,694 to approx. 62,000 in the number of REPS' participants, it has been decided to close REPS 4 to all new applicants, as well as those completing their current five-year REPS contracts*.  This decision is necessary in order to keep REPS within its budgetary allocation over the coming years.  A record 17,000 applications were received for the 2009 scheme, which closed in mid-May.   The 2009 scheme also represents the highest-ever spending on REPS.

Minister Smith described REPS as "a very successful scheme which, up to and including this year, has contributed over €3 billion to tens of thousands of Irish farmers."  The Minister confirmed that "Payments will, of course, continue to farmers within REPS and several hundred million will continue to be paid to current participants until the end of their existing five-year contracts."

The Minister said that he also proposed to introduce a new targeted agri-environment measure which will be funded by Modulation and the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) and will provide a menu of targeted measures from which farmers may choose.   This measure will be focused on the delivery of tangible environmental benefits -climate change, water management, bio-diversity, bio-energy and dairy restructuring.

In keeping with Government policy on schemes of this nature, this new measure will be strictly cash limited.  The Minister added that this scheme will provide a transitional payment for farmers when their REPS contracts expire. The final decision as to the maximum payment per farmer will be taken later in the year, when final decisions are taken in relation to the 2010 Budget and the Department's Estimates for next year.

Minister Smith also said that "in order to ensure that we maximise the drawdown of available EU funding, it is necessary to provide €25 million per annum in national co-funding for the new measures over the period 2010-2013.  Given the resources currently available to my Department, I have, at this stage, identified Disadvantaged Area Payments as the possible source for this co-financing, though this will only be confirmed and the full effect on DAS payments for 2010 will be determined as part of the annual Estimates and Budgetary process later in the year."

The Minister said that in addition to those new measures, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan TD, is also including, in the RDP, a measure on broadband, financed by the EERP funding.  Minister Smith pointed out that the provision of adequate broadband facilities is an issue of considerable importance for farmers and for all rural dwellers and he was happy to work with Minister Ryan in this regard.

The Minister added that his spending proposals for the Modulation funds would be considered by the RDP Monitoring Committee today and must be submitted for approval to the EU Commission by the 15th July 2009.

*Applications for REPS 4 will not be accepted after close of business on 9 July.

Date Released: 08 July 2009