Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Coveney suggests Pillar II funding will be under 47pc

Declan O'Brien and Caitriona Murphy

The shape and funding arrangements for the Pillar II programmes of CAP will be decided before Christmas, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has reiterated.

However, the minister set himself on a collision course with the farm organisations after he strongly hinted that 50:50 co-funding by the Government for Pillar II was extremely unlikely.

The minister's comments followed confirmation that final budgeted proposals for Pillar II for the period 2014-20 were only received by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last week.

But the minister dismissed any suggestion that this would delay the announcement of the final CAP package.

Speaking at the ICMSA's annual general meeting in Limerick, he said there had been ongoing discussions between his department and that of Minister Brendan Howlin on a seven-year budgetary proposal for rural development and other Pillar II schemes.

"We've been talking to the Department of Public Expenditure for some time.

"The proposals are not going to be a surprise to them, it's not like we just produced figures out of the blue. It's been an ongoing discussion that started before the budget," Minister Coveney said.

The minister said the big decisions in terms of funding commitments had been taken and that farmers would have "a pretty full picture" of how the rural development programme will work for the next seven years before Christmas.

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Minister Coveney said he would work with Minister Howlin to "get a good outcome for farmers" on the level of Government co-funding for Pillar II. However, he said the farm organisations had to be "realistic" on this issue.

Ireland has secured €313m in EU funding for Pillar II in the CAP deal for 2014 to 2020.

Full co-funding by the Government at 47pc for most schemes would deliver a total fund of €590m.

But it is also open to the Government to co-fund at the lower rate of 25pc, which would hit the overall funding levels for the Pillar II programme.

Minister Coveney said the total spend this year on Pillar II was €405m and it was unrealistic to see that figure going close to €600m given the state of the public finances.

"Obviously my job is to maximise the funding for the rural development, farmers and the agriculture and food sector and I'm working day and night trying to ensure the best possible deal in terms of co-funding rates," Minister Coveney said.

"People think we have to have 50-50 co-funding to get all the EU money, that's not the case. In fact many of the schemes that we will be introducing will have a 75pc co-funding EU requirement, which means we only have to add 25pc," he explained.

"Some of the schemes have only a 15 per cent exchequer co-funding requirement, others have a 53 per cent EU requirement," the minister added.

However, the farm organisations have been pushing hard for Government to maximise co-funding rates for Pillar II and will oppose any attempt to limit state support for the programme.

Irish Independent