Aid schemes under Budget cuts threat
Spotlight on AEOS for 2012 as €300m reduction in spend sought
Speculation is mounting on where the axe will fall as the Minister for Agriculture seeks to cut more than €300m from his Department's budget for next year.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has already agreed to cut almost €100m from the capital budget, which has drawn widespread criticism from farming representatives.
However, major savings will also have to come from the Department's current spend, with industry sources predicting cuts in the allowances for the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) and Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS), as well as the possible abandonment of AEOS for 2012.
While the winding down of payments under the Farm Waste Management Scheme and Farm Improvement Scheme will result in €40m savings in the capital budget, it has been suggested that horticulture is likely to see a 25pc cut to €3m and the bioenergy development budget slashed by 66pc to just €0.5m.
However, the biggest savings are likely to come from the forestry budget, as well as marketing and processing grants. A spending shortfall of up to €15m a year has occurred in recent years in the marketing budget, making it a likely target for cuts.
Farmers will be anxious that the €112m of forestry premiums and establishment grants remain untouched. But with forestry now accounting for nearly two thirds of the total capital budget, it will be difficult for the Minister to protect the sector.
The Targeted Agricultural Measures scheme which was closed to applicants from the dairy, poultry, pig and sheep sectors earlier this year will also be scrutinised. It has funding of €19m but as it was closed before farmers had an opportunity to access grants, it is estimated that less than €1m of this allocation was actually used this year.
IFA president John Bryan said that the funding allocation for agriculture up to 2016 was totally inadequate for the expansion plans of the sector.