Focus on agriculture set to emerge from Government deal

Fine Gael and a host of independents have agreed on a programme for government after days of intensive negotiations which has seen Enda Kenny returned as Taoiseach today.

This afternoon Enda Kenny won the support of 59 TD’s of Dail Eireann as well as the abstention Fianna Fail TDs to win a historic second term for a Fine Gael leader.

It is understood that the Dail will vote on the election of a Taoiseach as early as noon today with Enda Kenny set to receive the support of as many as 10 Independent TDs as well as the abstention of Fianna Fail.

The last 48 hours has seen intensive negotiations between Fine Gael and Independent TDs including the so-called ‘Rural Five’ and the Independent Alliance.

Negotiations have centred on a programme for Government document which according to reports could well have significant proposals on agriculture policy.

Indeed, in an extensive leak to the Irish Times this morning the proposed programme for government looks set to include host of agricultural measures.

Key agriculture measures in the document include:

  • Ireland will propose a lowering of the CAP on Basic Payments to from €150,000 to €100,000 in the Mid-term review of the CAP
  • A mid-term review of the Rural Development Programme in late 2016
  • Increase funding to Disadvantaged Area payments by €25m
  • An expanded farm building grants scheme to include approval for mats for slatted sheds and rainwater harvesting
  • Development of a new scheme under the RDP for the sheep sector with a budget of €25m
  • Seek amendment to RDP to provide an increased payment to organic producers for the first 10/ha
  • Review of the Green Cert to ensure it is fit for purpose
  • Recognition for forgotten farmers group

Fine Gael negotiations with independents came as earlier this week Fianna Fáil agreed to facilitate an Enda Kenny led Minority Government after striking a deal in a range of policy areas from Irish water to Garda numbers.

In relation to agriculture, both parties committed to fully implement Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 as well as securing the future of family farms and support our fishing industry. However, clear policy decisions were not presented in the agreement.

Should Enda Kenny as is now expected, be elected as Taoiseach today speculation in farming circles will swiftly turn to the position of Minister for Agriculture.

At this point, it remains to be seen how many cabinet positions will be held by independents in the new administration.

While a plethora of names have been bandied about for the position there is still the possibility that there might no change in the Agriculture portfolio with Simon Coveney staying put.

However, others suggest that Coveney’s leadership role in the negotiations to form a government signal that he is set to move to a higher position in Government such as the Finance or Foreign Affairs Departments.

Should this occur the field of potential hopefuls for the position appears to be wide open within the Fine Gael party. Heather Humphries, Paul Kehoe, and Andrew Doyle have all been mooted as potential successors to Coveney although no one as yet has publically declared an interest in the position.

Meanwhile, there remains the possibility that an Independent Minister for Agriculture could emerge from the current negotiations. Both Roscommon TDs Denis Naughton and Micheal Fitzmaurice have been vocal on agricultural issues in the past and are the most likely of the Independents to take up such a position.