Department of Agriculture officials in Dublin have confirmed to AgriLand that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney will address tomorrow’s Irish Farmers Association (IFA) annual meeting in Dublin.

He will attend the event in the wake of the January Cabinet Meeting, at which the level of Irish Government funding for the next Rural Development (RDP) is expected to be agreed. As a consequence, it is now widely anticipated that Minister Coveney could announce the outcome of the Government’s deliberations on this crucially important matter while at the Farm Centre in Dublin.

Earlier today IFA president John Bryan, president-elect Eddie Downey, Mayo IFA chairman Padraic Joyce and other Connacht County chairmen held a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Castlebar to press for an immediate decision on strong national co-financing for the RDP.

Bryan said the RDP must deliver strong support for vital farm schemes for the next seven years.

The IFA president added that farmers in many parts of the country are very dependent on Common Agricultural Policy Pillar II rural development supports such as agri-environment and disadvantaged areas schemes.

“Recent cutbacks have had a severe impact on farmers and the rural economy and the ball is now firmly in the hands of the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to ensure that rural development schemes continue to play a vital role over the next seven years.”

IFA president-elect Eddie Downey highlighted the importance of a strong RDP to support vulnerable sectors and regions.

“This will ensure that rural development schemes support the rural economy and jobs, while at the same time supporting farm income where output is limited by the quality of the land and where farmers can provide environmental public goods.”

Downey said Ireland has secured annual EU funding of €313m to give a total EU budget of €2.2bn.

“The Government must at least match this funding as it is clear that the spin-off to the rural economy is very significant given that practically all of the funding is spent in the local economy.  This is particularly relevant as the economic downturn has hit rural areas very badly and they are being left behind in the recovery. The seven-year RDP budget must illustrate a commitment to rural Ireland with strong Government support.”