The hot topic of co-funding the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform Pillar 2  was under the spotlight in the Dail again yesterday.

Fianna Fail spokesman on agriculture Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív raised the issue noting that the rules as they currently stand could potentially mean a 40 per cent cut in funding.

According to Ó Cuív: “The last Pillar 2 funding for the period 2007-2013 amounted to €4.8bn, between State funding and European funding. Pillar 2 funding has been co-funded, with 53 per cent coming from the EU and 47 per cent coming from the Government. Under the rules negotiated by the current minister, the small print shows that the new Pillar 2 could be as little as €3bn.”

With the Minister for Agriculture in Japan this week, Minster for State in the department, Deputy Tom Hayes, outlined the Government’s position and the current status of the negotiations.

“The development of a new rural programme under Pillar 2 will be a key support in enhancing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, achieving more sustainable management of natural resources and ensuring a more balanced development of rural areas, which we all want and need.

“While the draft regulation has not been formally adopted, its provisions represent the framework for the work carried out to date on the new rural development programme. It is expected that this programme will be formally adopted before the end of this year.”

Minister Hayes stressed: “No time or effort will be spared in negotiating for as much as can possibly be achieved in the coming months. Consultation is ongoing with all stakeholders.

“No decision has yet been made on these matters. As we speak, departmental officials are talking to colleagues in other departments in an effort to maximise the funding we can obtain for rural development.”

In response Deputy Ó Cuív quipped: “With the replies I am given sometimes, I do not know whether to cry or to laugh at the total effort to not answer a simple question.

He continued: “I am asking a simple question today. Can the Minister of State confirm whether it is the intention of the Government to co-fund the European money of €330m per annum at a rate of 53 per cent?”

He cited that the implications of the current agreement would have a particular impact on people farming poor land. “That is 75 per cent of the land in this country and those dependent on agri-environment schemes,” he stressed.

According to the minister: “The Deputy(Ó Cuív) should not believe everything he reads in the newspapers.”

Slamming Fianna Fail’s record on the issue, the minister continued: “It is important, moreover, that whatever funding we obtain we keep. The Government of which the deputy was a member dropped the schemes it had negotiated halfway through their cycles, including the rural environment protection scheme, the young farmers’ installation scheme, the early retirement scheme and the suckler cow and fallen cow schemes. We do not want to announce something that we cannot maintain.”

He continued: “We are receiving great support from many rural and farmers’ organisations, including people in the deputy’s party. In fact, some of those people have advised us not to listen to what he is saying in regard to Pillars 1 and 2. Some of the deputy’s views are not going down too well with his own people and he would be well advised to check with members in constituencies such as Kilkenny and Wexford. When he brings that consultation to the table, we will be happy to listen to him.”

Decisions on Ireland’s rollout of CAP Reform and its Rural Development Programme are to be made in the coming weeks.