An Irish Farmers Association (IFA) spokesman has confirmed to AgriLand that the clock is ticking with regard to the development and implementation of the next Rural Development Programme (RDP).

“This critical issue must be resolved by the early New Year. And, obviously, it will be a key focus for us over the coming weeks,” he added.

“Our primary objective is to get an assurance from Government that it will co-fund all the agreed measures in the next programme. We thought that we might have received some indication of how Government will deal with this issue courtesy of last week’s Budget. Unfortunately, that did not happen. So the onus is on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to go public with his thoughts regarding the implementation of the next RDP as a matter of priority.

The IFA representative went on to point out that RDP measures play a vital role in maintaining the fabric of production agriculture in Ireland.

“We are expecting that the next programme will provide additional support to the suckler sector. This, in turn, will help maintain the viability of our red meat processing industry, which is worth €2bn to the Irish economy annually.

“The RDP also plays a crucial role in maintaining a viable farm production base in vulnerable areas. We also expect that the new programme will be used to help improve efficiency on farms across the entire range of sectors.”

IFA president John Bryan has confirmed that schemes such as the agri-environment programme, disadvantaged areas and young farmer measures, as well as investment aid for achieving Food Harvest 2020 targets are of critical importance to ensure that agriculture continues to play a key role in Ireland’s economic recovery.

Bryan said that Ireland’s EU allocation over the next seven years is €313m/annum.  This must be matched by at least that amount of national co-financing with national top-ups. The IFA has proposed a programme with a total EU and national allocation of €660m/annum.

“The plan must be submitted to Brussels in early 2014 and it is vital the funding arrangements are pinned down so that the details of the various measures are agreed in advance of the submission being made to the European Commission”.

The IFA president added that the minister must put in place in 2014 an agri-environment scheme for the farmers who are leaving REPS 4 at the end of this year.  These farmers must not be denied vital agri-environment payments and in particular those with environmental restrictions.

Concluding, Bryan stressed that a robust RDP with adequate funding will underpin agricultural production and investment over a seven-year period and will complement the implementation of the Common Agriculture Policy payment. “An early decision is now imperative.”

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