Micheál Martin on RDP extension, organic farming and GLAS

The extension of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) for 2021 and 2022 will include nearly €900 million in EU funds, according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Commenting on the changes to efforts to become more sustainable, the Taoiseach said:

“These changes will take place in the context of ongoing investment in the sector by the EU and by the Irish government.

RDP

“The Irish RDP provides supports of €4 billion to farmers and rural communities throughout the country.

We have drawn down nearly 83% of EU funds allocated for the 2014-2020 programme and well above the EU average draw-down of 62%. It supports the delivery of climate and environmental benefits and maintenance of our unique landscape.

Martin highlighted that there are 21 European initiative partnership projects with more planned for 2021 to address the challenges facing the sector, which he said includes water quality, biodiversity and the restoration of peat uplands.

“More widely the GLAS [Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme] pays farmers to promote biodiversity, protect water quality and help combat climate change.

“Nearly 50,000 farmers were participating at the end of 2020, with over €950 million having been paid out since 2015.”

Organic farming

Highlighting the organic sector in particular, the Taoiseach said: “Organic farming will also play an increasingly important role in our response to the challenges of climate change and sustainability.

“It is an area where Ireland is uniquely placed to leverage our brand as a clean, green location on the international market.

“There are ambitious targets set out in the programme for government and in the Farm to Fork strategy to increase the agricultural area under organic production and I know that the Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, is doing really important work in this area.

To support rural areas in general, significant funding of €250 million is available under the LEADER programme to encourage rural enterprise, training, environmental initiatives, tourism and broadband. Additional funding will be made available in 2021 and 2022.

Continuing, Martin said:

“To support rural areas in general, significant funding of €250 million is available under the LEADER programme to encourage rural enterprise, training, environmental initiatives, tourism and broadband. Additional funding will be made available in 2021 and 2022.

“You will also be aware that the current RDP was due to finish at the end of 2020. It is hugely welcome therefore that, after an unavoidable period of uncertainty, Minister McConalogue and his EU colleagues agreed on an extension to the programme until the end of 2022.

This includes nearly €900 million in EU funds over the next two years. In preparation for the full programme to follow this two-year transition period, the new CAP strategic plan is being developed.

“Workshops have been taking place and further public consultations are expected soon. I encourage all stakeholders to contribute to this formative process.

“The new plan must reflect the increased environmental ambitions which the commission has outlined in its Green Deal and the climate and biodiversity challenges we all face.

“We must work together to find solutions which meet the requirements of the sector, the economic and social needs of rural Ireland and the responsibility we all have in relation to building a greener future,” the Taoiseach concluded.