Farm groups clash as IRL claims spark controversy
A war of words has broken out between two of the key organisations representing rural interests.
Irish Rural Link (IRL), an umbrella body representing nearly 500 rural community groups, has called for more of the EU's CAP to be directed away from farm payments into more broad-based rural development schemes.
Seamus Boland, the IRL's CEO, pointed out that rural Ireland has a much broader remit than just agriculture.
He said that despite the fact that 40pc of the population is living in rural areas, less than five percent of European rural funding goes to rural programmes. The other 95pc goes to agriculture, with a disproportionate amount of that funding going to wealthy farmers because there is no limit on payments and they are not means tested.
However, the IFA has attacked the IRL's claims, labelling them misleading, inaccurate and without basis.
"This organisation is looking for increased LEADER funding, even though 75pc of the €466m remains unspent," said IFA president John Bryan. "This illustrates the lack of impact by the organisations that Irish Rural Link claims to represent."
The IFA leader went on to contrast this with the agricultural sector, which he said "generates economic activity and jobs in the rural economy, and contributes €8bn in exports".
He said: "The Food Harvest 2020 identifies growth potential of 50pc. This is clear evidence of the effectiveness of the agricultural sector to deliver a strong return on investment from the various farm schemes under the Common Agricultural Policy."