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Commission observations on Rural Development Programme expose Minister’s bluff – Carthy

11 December, 2014 - by Matt Carthy MEP

Commission observations on Rural Development Programme expose Minister’s bluff – Carthy

Commenting today (Thursday) on the European Commission’s Observations on the Draft Rural Development Plan as submitted by the Irish Government, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Constituency, Matt Carthy, stated that the observations expose the Government’s spin, particularly in terms of the GLAS scheme.

Carthy said:

“Throughout this debate the Minister Simon Coveney has argued that the restrictions for entry to the GLAS scheme have been driven at a European level and were required in order the European Commission to approve the Rural Development Programme.

“This is despite the fact that the Minister also gave smaller farmers the impression that they would be adequately compensated under the Rural Development Programme for their reluctant support for the modified Single Farm Payment regime, which still unfavourably supports larger farmers.

“As late as November this year, Department of Agriculture officials before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture insisted that GLAS proposals required the collective agreement of farmers in order to avoid significant financial penalties being imposed at European Level.

“It has become increasingly clear that, in fact, while there is a clear onus on member states to ensure that agricultural land is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition, there is significant flexibility afforded to individual member states to design a scheme which adequately supports farmers.

“In particular, the European Commission in observation number 149 in relation to the GLAS scheme asks “What is the reason for specifically targeting commonages and for the required 50% minimum participation in a commonage plan?”. Observation numbers 140 and 141 also make clear that the support under this measure is not confines to active farmers and can be extended to include other beneficiaries.

“The European Commission also, in observation number 135, suggests that imposing a maximum payment of €5000 is not justified.

“The observations of the European Commission make it clear that, in my view, the Minister has been imposing his own agenda to the detriment of small farmers and has been hiding behind the European Commission to serve his own political purposes. His bluff has been exposed for all to see.

“In light of the huge mobilisations of Hill Farmers on several occasions clearly stating that they will not accept the collective agreement proposals of the department I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture to come clean, stop the spin and make the necessary amendments to the GLAS scheme.”

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