Ferris calls for increase in Energy Crop Grant
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD has called for an increase in the level of grant available under the EU Energy Crops scheme, designed to encourage farmers to grow crops that can be used to produce biofuels. At present a grant of €45 per hectare is available, but there is general agreement that this is too low.
The Kerry North TD said: "Given the vital importance that this sector will have in the future, I believe that it is absolutely necessary for the grant to be increased. There are various proposals from stakeholders as to the most appropriate level but certainly a consensus that a substantial increase is required. Up to the beginning of October only 248 people, with 2,400 hectares, had applied for the grant in 2006. This is well below the land usage that will be required if Ireland is to become a viable producer of the feedstock that will be required if current targets are to be met domestically. Otherwise we will end up substituting the import of one fuel source for another.
"There is huge potential for the growing and processing of energy crops here, especially with the Single Farm Payment which gives farmers the opportunity to move towards new production systems. The Government has set ambitious targets, which I support but in order to ensure that these are met and that the energy crop and biofuels sector bring economic benefits to the country, the state needs to be far more proactive in establishing the right conditions especially where this requires change, as in this instance, at EU level."
Note to Newsrooms: Deputy Ferris will be questioning the Minister for Agriculture this afternoon on what she believes is the optimum strategy for the energy crops sector.