Some devils in Budget 2011 details
While the major effects of last week's Budget have been widely publicised, the Minister for Finance's austerity plan for the New Year contained dozens of funding decisions that affect the farming sector.
The IFA's chief economist, Rowena Dwyer, and rural development secretary Gerry Gunning delved into the bowels of the package to highlight some of the details from the small print.
Chief among these is the decision to cut Farm Assist payments by €8 a week, or €400 a year. With the number of farmers in the scheme increasing to 11,000, the allocation to Farm Assist will increase from €111m this year to €129m in 2011. However, despite this overall increase, weekly payments to indivdual farmers will be lower, in line with cuts across the welfare system.
The move will affect thousands of farm families, particularly in the upland and less fertile regions such as south Kerry, Donegal and Connemara.
These are the same areas that have taken part in rural recreation schemes, such as the walkways scheme, which is worth €1.9m every year in payments to around 2,500 farmers. Funding for the rural recreation scheme was slashed by 30pc to €2.9m by Brian Lenihan, which spells the end for any new walkways being established next year, although IFA was assured that existing walks and five-year deals entered into would not be affected.
Funding levels for the Rural Social Scheme were increased by 7pc to €46.1m, which will cover 2,600 places and 130 supervisory places. While this means a holding of the number of places for next year, the actual rate of payment will be reduced as a result of the social welfare decreases. However, there is hope that some additional places could be created next year.
Funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Scheme (NPWS) will remain at €5m for next year, which mean that existing contracts will be honoured to more than 1,000 farmers who have five-year plans drawn up in the designated areas.
However, no new contracts will be drawn up at this stage. Pressure on the NPWS allocation will ease since the Agri Environment Options Scheme is being re-opened to new applications next year.