Fine Gael commits to rural growth, party think-in hears

Speaking at last weekend’s Fine Gael Annual Conference Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney reaffirmed the party’s commitment to the rural economy.

He added: “In Government, Fine Gael has prioritised issues which are important to rural Ireland. The past year has seen a lot of progress on key issues fundamental to rural life. We have successfully completed a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy in a very ambitious timeframe during the Irish Presidency and have overcome challenges such as horsemeat, tough weather conditions and a fodder crisis.

“We are now entering a phase which could potentially be a golden age for Irish farming, with the prospect of quota abolition and a positive outlook for increased exports. The rise in demand for third level agricultural courses is a clear signal of the enthusiasm surrounding the agri-food sector and the increased investment by our largest food companies will provide sustainable jobs for rural communities in the long term.

“Fine Gael will continue to support the rural economy through a new rural development programme, an ambitious strategy on the marine, an innovative CAP and continued focus on the targets to be achieved under the Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

“Rural Ireland is a vital part of this Government’s economic strategy and will be at the centre of our country’s recovery.”

This year’s annual conference directly preceded tomorrow’s Budget 2014, which most agri-stakeholder groups believe should be used to stimulate the further growth of the agri sectors.

Minister Coveney has repeatedly stressed that Ireland’s agri-sectors can meet the growth targets laid out with the Harvest 2020 strategy. He has also admitted that the ongoing CAP review will be ‘production neutral’ when finally implemented. This leaves the 2014 Budget and those which follow as the main financial instruments through which the government can pump prime Irish agriculture, he said.

Pictured Simon Coveney