ICSA warns minister on co-funding of RDP

Gabriel Gilmartin president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has warned the Minister for Agriculture on the need to secure 50:50 co-funding for the Rural Development Programme (RDP).

Recently industry sources have confirmed to AgriLand that the Cabinet will make a decision on the proposed co-funding of the next RDP tomorrow with the results of their discussions to be made public the next day.

Gilmartin said the minister must ensure that he fights for full co-funding of vital Pillar II schemes as a priority.

“It would be unconscionable for Minister Coveney to accept anything less than 50:50 co-funding for rural development. He must ensure that the Department of Public Expenditure is fully aware of the value and necessity of maximising the allocation for the Pillar II schemes.”

Gilmartin slammed recent suggestions by Minister Coveney that the decision could be based on the €405m allocated for the RDP this year. “It is misleading for the minister to refer to this year’s allocation as an acceptable reference point for future funding levels. The 2013 figure is an extraordinarily low baseline and reflects the fact that we have been operating under an EU/IMF programme for the past number of years. However, post-Troika, we need a more ambitious RDP reflecting the Government’s positive soundings on exiting the bailout.

“The Minister knows well that any cuts to Pillar II funding would hit low-income farming families the hardest. These farms have already seen their small incomes reduced through cuts to vital schemes like the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and REPS, with AEOS a mere shadow of the original REPS and no agri-environment scheme at all open for 2014 entrants.

“Minister Coveney would be making a serious error if he accepts anything less than full co-funding,” Gilmartin concluded.

Speaking on the issue recently Minister Coveney said: “In designing the new RDP, my department must take account of the range of requirements set out in the draft Rural Development Regulation and the need to support key policy aims for the agri-food sector in the light of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. In undertaking this work, a number of ex-ante analyses are being undertaken and a public consultation process has also taken place.”

He added: “While final decisions in relation to what measures are to be included in the new RDP have not yet been made, my department is in ongoing contact with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the overall financing that will be required.”