The value of direct payments to farmers should not fall next year for the first time in several years according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

He said between now and 2020, there will be an effective increase in payments because of a very strong rural development programme, with increased expenditure each year.

The Minister outlined that when one looks at the amounts of direct supports going into farming, rather than the number of schemes and so forth, the totals have been falling from 2011 each year until this year.

“We have tried to limit it as best we can and ensure the moneys are well spent,” he said in the Dail today.

Minister Coveney also outlined that there has also been a reduction of the guts of €100 million in the cost of running the Department.

Five years ago the number of departmental staff was 4,500, it is now fewer than 3,300, he said.

“Across the board, we have reduced expenditure, applying it to the Department first, with some reductions in schemes.”

The Minister stated that he negotiated a new Rural Development Programme in the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, which will see a significant increase in expenditure every year for the next six years.

“Next year is essentially about stopping further reductions and building from this.”

Accordingly, the Minister said next year’s rural development programme spend will come to €439 million.

He said it is anticipated that next year’s direct payment spend will be roughly the same as this year’s, €1.65 billion, counting the single farm payments, as well as the rural development programme spend.

“It should not be forgotten that we are spending heavily in areas such as forestry which does not involve any European funding. We have managed to prevent cuts to the forestry programme, maintaining it at between €110 million and €115 million.”

The Minister said like every other sector that relies on Government budgets, there have been reductions in expenditure in the past six years.

“Farmers can now look ahead with much confidence that expenditure will be moving the other way in the next few years,” he said.