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Cuts in farming and fishing unacceptable

16 October, 2008

Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD criticised cuts in research and development for the farming and fishing sectors. He said Teagasc, which has provided invaluable practical support for farmers, must be capable of rising to new challenges presented by a reformed Common Agricultural Policy.

Deputy Ferris said, "The first thing I would like to say in relation to this Budget is to note the 13% cut made in the allocation to Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Almost the entire burden of that cut falls on the programmes side of the Department and the largest cut in administration is to laboratory equipment, which presumably reflects the curtailing of research and training where the allocation is down by over €5 million.

"The closing off of the Early Retirement Scheme and the Installation Aid for young farmers represents a saving of over €9 million. Something which is certain to have a malign impact on those farmers in the process of transferring responsibility for the family farm. A small cut in the overall scheme of things but significant nonetheless.

"But it is in the area of programmes designed to develop the farming and fisheries sector that the axe has fallen most heavily. Teagasc in particular has played an invaluable role in providing up to date research and practical support for farmers. At a time of radical change within the sector and subject to the pressures of structural change and the challenges presented by the reformed Common Agricultural Policy, and facing possible further changes under the Health Check, it is vital that the research and development resource mainly centred on Teagasc is capable of rising to those challenges.

"Much is said about the potential for farmers to expand into new areas of production such as energy crops. That potential indeed exists although the level of participation to date has been low. That is why it is all the more important to encourage this through the provision of information and practical assistance. The cuts made in Teagasc will severely curtail that ability.

"Some will defend the cuts on the basis that savings need to be made but in reality by reducing the research and development capacity of the sector you may actually create further negative impacts downstream. But apart from that, in a period of international economic recession and the pressures placed on an economy such as Ireland's by the vagaries of international fuel supplies and costs, it surely makes sense to ensure that we will have a viable domestic renewable energy sector based on the processing of crops suitable for the production of bio-fuels.

"And even apart from the issue of supply, investment in that sector, and that includes the grant scheme for the growing of energy crops, can help to stimulate production and processing and thereby create new indigenous enterprise and employment. So by making a short term saving what you are in fact doing is closing off a potential avenue of encouraging localised economic growth." ENDS

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