Bureaucratic mess puts food enterprises at financial risk
The Department of Agriculture has admitted that an anomaly in the drafting of the Rural Development Programme has resulted in hundreds of potential food enterprises being left without funding.
The mix up is now preventing former LEADER companies from supporting small rural food producers.
The EU Commission told the Department of Community Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to instruct the local partnership companies to cease all support for food producers in January this year after the anomaly came to light.
According to the CEO of Laois Partnership, Anne Goodwin, this is devastating news for rural food businesses and for the partnership companies. "If you ask any of the Leader/Partnership companies to name their flagship projects the majority will identify food projects among their big successes."
Maura Walsh, CEO of IRD Duhallow, pointed out that the anomaly at the root of this crisis arises from the way the Rural Development Programme was written. She said that the programme is structured into four parts known as Axes.
Walsh said: "Axis one deals with competitiveness and initiatives such as the Early Retirement Scheme, installation Aid and farm advice. Axis two, which has the biggest budget, covers REPs, Forestry, AEOS and environmental measures, while Axes three and four cover the more non-farming rural development initiatives and farm diversification.
"It is this last axis where the Partnership/Leader companies fit in and this is how we supported food enterprises."