President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Gabriel Gilmartin, has underlined the absolute necessity of ensuring that the Rural Development Programme (RDP) is co-funded to the maximum extent by the Government.

“Pillar II must be co-funded to the tune of 50 per cent.  I would be extremely concerned at any suggestion that co-funding from the Irish exchequer would fall short of that level,” Gilmartin said.

“Furthermore, it is misleading for the Minister to refer to the total allocation for this year’s RDP, which amounts to €405 million.  This is an extraordinarily low base and should not be used as a basis for negotiating the RDP budget for the next seven years.”

“Limiting state support for the RDP would hit the lowest income farms, all of whom have already seen their incomes reduced through severe cuts to schemes such as the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and REPS, with AEOS a mere shadow of the original REPS scheme and no agri-environment scheme at all open for entrants in 2014.”

“Not only do these schemes form a core part of incomes on the most marginal farmland in the country but maximising the funding for them is also critical to ensuring the objectives of the schemes are delivered upon.  The onus is now on Minister Coveney to ensure that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sees the necessity and value of securing 50 per cent co-funding for these vital schemes.”

It is anticipated that Minister Coveney will make a decision on the RDP issue over the coming days.

Meanwhile IFA President John Bryan said Minister Coveney is incorrect when he says much less than 50 per cent of Government funding has applied under the existing RDP.  For example, in this year’s RDP alone, over 60 per cent comes from the national exchequer. He said this is another example of the minister presenting figures in a confusing and distorted fashion, which will not distract farmers from the reality and added:

“Historically, Government funding for the RDP  has been very strong. With farm incomes in vulnerable sectors and regions under real pressure, and the rural economy in such a fragile state, the need for 50:50 co-financing with national top-ups is fully justified.

The IFA president also pointed out the bulk of the existing RDP is at a national funding rate of 50 per cent or more.

“At a recent meeting, Minister Coveney confirmed that he is demanding 50:50 co-funding, in line with the IFA plan, for the RDP.  He must deliver this at the Cabinet table,” the President commented