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Minister Coveney Must Deliver Investment in Agriculture, Says IFA

28 August 2013

IRELAND - Speaking at the Iverk Show in Kilkenny on Saturday (24 August), IFA President John Bryan said the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, must focus on defending his Department’s allocation in the upcoming Budget negotiations.

Mr Bryan said, "The Minister has overseen deep cuts to farm schemes in the last two years which have hit low-income farmers very hard. He has to use the next Budget to rectify this by mounting a strong defence of farmers around the Cabinet table."

The IFA President was particularly critical of the current Government’s record on cuts to farm schemes since 2011. "Within Minister Coveney’s Agriculture budget, there has been a far deeper cut to farm schemes compared to other parts of his Department’s budget. Spending on farm schemes between 2011 and 2013 has fallen by 18 per cent or €119m, compared to a reduction of 8 per cent or €60m across the rest of his Department."

Mr Bryan said, "The onus is on Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to present this case at the Cabinet table when the decisions around the Budget are made in the next six weeks and deliver a well-funded Rural Development Programme, with appropriate incentives for active, productive farmers who will be the drivers of the Food Harvest 2020 expansion plans."

Mr Bryan said the next EU Rural Development Programme to run up to 2020 will be a major test of the Government’s commitment to the sector. "It is hugely important that the Government commits to 50:50 national/EU co-financing with national top ups to ensure a strong Rural Development Programme supporting vulnerable sectors and regions, through measures such as Disadvantaged Areas and agri-environmental schemes."

"Under the proposed Rural Development programme 2014-2020, an average of €290m per year in EU funding will be available for farm schemes. This is an increase of over €100m on the EU funding that was available in 2013. This funding can be tapped at no additional cost to the Exchequer, and must be drawn down for farm schemes in 2014."

He said, "IFA analysis of the Government’s own figures shows the disproportionate impact on the sector of successive budgets. Since 2008, the total Agriculture spend has been reduced by 41.2 per cent, compared to a reduction of 12.6 per cent for total spending across all Government departments."

"At a time when the economy has shrunk back to 2004 levels, current Government expenditure on Agriculture stands out for having taken a reduction, while nominal current expenditure remains well ahead in other major departments. In fact, Agriculture’s share of current Government expenditure has fallen by one third from three per cent to only two per cent over the same period."

Mr Bryan also spelled out the positive impact of expenditure on farm schemes on the wider economy. "There is a direct link between primary production and economic activity, particularly in rural areas. If the Government is looking to any sector to help with economic recovery, then there is ample evidence that agriculture and food production delivers. The recent study undertaken by UCD shows that every €1 of support for the cattle and sheep sector, through direct payments, underpins over €4 of output in the economy."

"The recent export figures for the first half of 2013 show the agri-food sector standing out positively on the manufacturing side and recording growth of 8 per cent."

Mr Bryan highlighted the need for additional national support for the livestock sector and targeted investment to ensure that the Food Harvest 2020 targets are achieved.

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