John Shirley: Have we a lightweight at the cabinet table?
Budget 2014 has already been fixed for October 15 next, almost two months earlier than last year. Jostling for position is under way. Farmers too must fight their corner.
To this end, I was disappointed to hear farm minister Simon Coveney in a recent radio debate boast that he had made a saving of €70m in the Department of Agriculture.
The vast bulk of these savings lay in cuts to farm schemes such as Suckler Welfare Scheme, REPS, headage, farm grant schemes etc.
Apart from the vital contribution made by these schemes to farming and rural well being, most were significantly funded by the EU.
Agriculture is one of the few departments capable of drawing down extra EU funding, yet Minister Coveney, right, is not maximising this facility.
When it comes to formulating the national budget, the ability of farming to bring in money into the country isn't taken into account.
Under the latest CAP reforms, in theory, there is additional matching funds available under Rural Development but we are not in a position to draw on them.
When it comes to defending the interest of farmers, one would worry that we have a lightweight at the cabinet table.