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Independent.ie

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Government under-spend on RDP will cost farmers €300m: Ó Cuív

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

The drystock sector west of the Shannon will be most affected by the Rural Development Programme under-spend, Fianna Fail agriculture spokesman Eamon O Cuiv has claimed
The drystock sector west of the Shannon will be most affected by the Rural Development Programme under-spend, Fianna Fail agriculture spokesman Eamon O Cuiv has claimed

Farmers will be short-changed to the tune of €300m over the next five years as the Government looks set for a massive under-spend in the Rural Development Plan.

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The latest figures released by the Department of Agriculture show that the first 17,625 GLAS scheme applicants have received an average of €680 each.

This should account for 25pc of what they will eventually be paid for their first year in the scheme, resulting in an average payment of less than €3,000 per farmer.

While the €2,000 top-up to GLAS+ farmers is likely to bring up this average by another €500, it will still leave the average payment under €4,000 on average - a full 20pc lower than the €5,000 that was touted as a standard payment when the scheme was first launched nearly two years ago.

In addition, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has insisted that this scheme will cater for 50,000 farmers when it is at its peak, but observers believe that both this target and the €5,000 average payment are unlikely, especially in the wake of the removal of the low input grassland measure.

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"There is no way that the €250m budget that we were told was set aside for this scheme is ever going to be used," said Fianna Fail's agriculture spokesman, Éamon Ó Cuív.

"By my reckoning, the most that can be hoped for is €200m a year, which will leave farmers €50m short every year over the five-year duration of the scheme."

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The Galway TD believes that this shortfall will be compounded by a €17m underspend in the controversial Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), which was also designed to pay out to individual farmers over a five year period.

"The BDGP is on course to channel €65m less than the targeted €250m that the Minister said farmers would be getting from the scheme," said Mr Ó Cuív.

"It now looks like farmers will miss out on at least €300m from the various schemes that were launched in the Rural Development Programme. This is very serious for farmers in general, but especially those in western regions who were told that any losses that they suffered during the CAP negotiations would be more than compensated for through these schemes.

"It is the drystock sector that farming west of the Shannon relies so heavily on that will suffer the biggest loss if these figures pan out the way they are heading now."

Mr Ó Cuív claimed that best way to ensure that any underspend still goes to farmers is to channel surplus funds into the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme.

"The ANC scheme was cut during the recession, despite the huge impact that it makes on the country's most marginal farms.

"We can't re-engineer schemes like the BDGP or GLAS since Brussels wouldn't stand for it, but it should be straight forward to bring the ANC scheme back up to the levels that it was at previously," he said.

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