€4 billion rural development fund outlined 

The Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney has outlined the Rural Development Programme (RDP) for 2014-2020, with funding of €4 billion available.

The programme will now be submitted to the European Commission for approval. The draft RDP sets out the logic underlying proposed schemes and supports, and also outlines many of the administrative and monitoring and evaluation procedures that will be in place over the lifetime of the Programme, according to the Minister.

The main provisions include:

GLAS (total allocation of €1,450m over the lifetime of the RDP)

The new Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) will provide for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers. The targeted structure of the Scheme has been refined following the recent public consultation. In particular, the requirement for 80% of active farmers to participate in collective action on commonage has been replaced by a 50% rate applying to either 50% of active farmers or 50% of the total commonage land area. An independently chaired implementation group will be established to address issues that arise on the ground. It is expected that this Scheme will deliver substantial biodiversity, water quality, climate change, and other environmental benefits.

 In addition to the basic GLAS, farmers who take on particularly challenging environmental actions may qualify for a top up payment of up to €2,000 per annum under GLAS+. For example, farmers who reach the full €5,000 maximum under GLAS on the back on mandatory Tier 1 actions will get priority access to GLAS+.

 Some of the main payment rates under GLAS include

i.          An annual rate of €120/ha will apply for the actions applicable on commonages. This is a substantial increase on the €75 rate available under AEOS.

ii.          The low input permanent pasture action will attract a payment of €314 and traditional hay meadow actions will attract a payment of €315 per hectare each year.

iii.         New measures to help the conservation of important wild bird species will attract rates of between €205 to €375 per hectare per year.

Areas of Natural Constraint inc. Island Farmers (€1,370m)

The current levels and structure of payments under the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme (formerly known as the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme) will continue, pending the reassessment of the areas covered by the Scheme on the basis of new biophysical criteria which must be in place by 2018.

A new top up payment for a separate category of Island Farmers has now been incorporated in the structure of the ANC Scheme.  This top up will compensate for the particular challenges faced by Island Farmers. Where a farmer is resident on an island an additional €150 per forage hectare will be payable, subject to the maximum of €250 per hectare up to 34 hectares.  Where the farmer is not resident on the island the top up rate is €75 per forage hectare.

Other aspects of the programme include: 

On Farm Capital Investment (€395m)
Locally Led Agri-Environment Schemes (€70m)
Organic Farming (€44m)
Support for collaborative farming (€3m)
Beef Data and Genomics Programme (€295m)
Knowledge Transfer Measures (€112m)

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