Decision on co-funding rural development imminent

A decision on the proposed co-funding of the next Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) is imminent.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin are finalising funding for the new RDP this month and tense discussions are ongoing.

In an update the Agriculture Department said work is also continuing on designing schemes to be included in the new RDP. It is anticipated that an outline of these schemes will be published shortly.

Once funding and programme content is agreed, the new RDP will be the subject of evaluation and environmental assessment.  This process will take approximately three months and a draft RDP will be submitted to the European Commission in late spring.

Meanwhile Irish Farmers Association (IFA) rural development chairman Flor McCarthy said the imminent government decision on national co-financing for the RDP over the next seven years must deliver strong support for vital farm schemes that underpin farm incomes particularly in disadvantaged areas and in the low-income sectors of farming.

The IFA rural development chairman has urged the Government to co-finance at a rate of 50:50 with national top-ups.

“This will ensure that rural development schemes support the rural economy and jobs while at the same time supporting farm income whose output is limited by the quality of the land and where farmers can provide environmental public goods.”

McCarthy added that Ireland has secured annual EU funding of €313m to give a total EU budget of €2.2bn.

“The Government must at least match this funding as it is clear that the spin-off to the rural economy is very significant given that practically all of the funding is spent in the local economy.  This is particularly relevant at this time as the economic downturn has hit rural areas very badly and are being left behind in the recovery,” he said.