Ferris gives qualified welcome for new Rural Development Programme
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, has given a qualified welcome to the newly announced programme of Rural Development for 2007 – 2013. The €6.8bn package will be funded in the ratio of around 70:30 by the Irish Government and EU monies under the Common Agricultural Policy. This will facilitate significant increases in REPS, Disadvantaged Areas payments, Installation Aid and the Early Retirement Scheme.
The Kerry North TD said: “In general terms the package announced by the Minister must be welcomed and it does at least attempt to address some of the concerns raised recently by farmers and their representatives. However, the measures announced will have to be put into consideration alongside other factors which will have a larger impact on farm incomes, especially for small to medium producers, over the next six to seven years. The concern is that falling incomes from a declining share of the price of produce accruing to farmers, for example, will outweigh the benefits of the new package.
“On a more general note, the understanding of ‘rural development’ as defined by the CAP continues to be a narrow one and is linked strictly to on-farm measures, many of which centre on non-productive land. The concern is that overall EU policy is driven by a planned programme of reducing production and the numbers of family farms, rather than proactively seeking new ways of invigorating the sector and rural communities. For example, there is little understanding under the current definition of rural development of the opportunities presented by the growing of energy crops and how that could not only sustain farms but also provide an input into biofuels production that would provide many jobs in rural areas. This is clearly an area that needs to be debated at both national and EU level.”