Programme for government: Agriculture agreement finalised

Talks on agriculture involving Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, as part of wider programme for government talks, have ended with an agreement for the sector, AgriLand understands.

Sources in Fianna Fáil have said that an agreement on agriculture was finalised on Friday last, June 12, with a general programme for government agreement imminent – perhaps as soon as tomorrow, Monday, June 15.

Sources have said that farmers “will be pleased” with the agreement, and that it will “protect farmer interests in the years ahead”.

Key details of the agreement are emerging, including: a new REPS-type scheme; a ‘Food Ombudsman’; an ‘Independent Agriculture Appeals Review Panel’; and incentives for micro-renewable energy generation on farms.

AgriLand has already reported that a new scheme, similar to the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), was being discussed in the talks.

This now appears to be confirmed as a “key part” of the agreement on agriculture. There was speculation that the scheme might be referred to as ‘REPS Mark II’ or ‘REPS Plus’.

It is now understood that the final agreement refers to this scheme as a “flagship environmental scheme”, though it is not immediately clear what the scheme’s name will be when it will be finally rolled out.

The scheme is set to be funded through three sources: the exchequer; monies ring-fenced from revenue collected under the Carbon Tax; and funding from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Food Ombudsman

Another key point in the agreement is the establishment of a Food Ombudsman, whose remit will be to improve transparency in the sector – including price transparency.

One specific task of the ombudsman will be to oversee the transposition of the EU’s Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive into Irish law, and the implementation of the directive as it relates to the agricultural sector.

The ombudsman will also have a key role in market monitoring and reporting.

Appeals review panel

According to sources, the agreement also makes provision for a new government to bring forward legislation to create an ‘Independent Agriculture Appeals Review Panel’.

This body would review appeals made by farmers to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. At present, appeals are made to the department, which decides on any appeal unilaterally.

This new panel, when it is established, will be independent – i.e. not under the auspices of the department.

Notably, AgriLand understands that this panel will have representation and input from farming bodies, which is being described as an “important step”.

Micro-renewable energy

The agreement also sets out a commitment to bring forward policies that will “promote and incentivise” the generation of micro-renewable energy on individual farms.

Micro-renewable energy is energy harvested locally; on farms; or any type of small-scale site or area. This might include things like solar panels on shed roofs or anaerobic digestion systems to harvest biogas.

Stay tuned to AgriLand for more coverage on the outcomes for agriculture in the unfolding programme for government.