Farmers plough on as payments lift spirits
FARMERS preparing for this year's Ploughing Championships got a boost yesterday when the Department of Agriculture announced new EU payments worth more than €130m.
Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith also said he expected to get the green light from Brussels today for the early release of around €600m in single farm payments to Irish farmers next month.
The €130m boost is in disadvantaged area payments.
"I am conscious that despite this being a good year for farming from a production and price perspective, the farming community has endured two difficult years in terms of farm income," Mr Smith said. When the balance of payments is issued by the end of the year, Irish farmers will have received €1.5bn in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, and Mr Smith said this high level of funding should remind the farming community of the importance of CAP money and the need to protect it in forthcoming EU negotiations.
Meanwhile the National Ploughing Association said that heavy rain on Sunday had failed to dampen preparations for this year's ploughing event, which kicks off in Cardenton, just outside Athy, in Co Kildare today with all heavy machinery already on site.
"It is absolutely beautiful and there's even a lorry in front of me kicking up dust, so that shows you how dry it is," spokeswoman Anna Marie McHugh confirmed yesterday.
Some 15kms of metal track has been laid around the 700-acre site to ensure ease of movement for up to 180,000 visitors over the three-day event.