THE imminent Government decision on national co-financing for the Rural Development Programme over the next seven years must deliver strong support for vital farm schemes which underpin farm incomes particularly in Disadvantaged Areas and in the low income sectors of farming.
That's according to IFA Rural Development Chairman, Flor McCarthy who said that farmers in many parts of the country are very dependent on CAP Pillar II Rural Development supports such as Environmental 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," he said.
Mr McCarthy urged the Government to co-finance at a rate of 50:50 with national top-ups to ensure rural development schemes support the rural economy and jobs while at the same time supporting farm income whose output is limited by the quality of the land and where farmers can provide environmental public goods.
Mr McCarthy said that 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 at this time as the economic downturn has hit rural areas very badly and are being left behind in the recovery" he said.
Mr McCarthy said that the next couple of weeks are vital as a cabinet decision on this vital issue is due to be made.
"The seven- year Rural Development Programme budget must illustrate a commitment to rural Ireland with strong Government support," he said.