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Ferris slams progress report on Agriculture

3 August, 2004

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD, has claimed that the Government's Progress Report highlights numerous areas where the current administration is failing farmers and rural communities. Deputy Ferris said that while the Report is full of vague commitments and good intentions, that not only have many of the commitments made two years ago not been honoured, but that overall Government policy has worsened the situation for many farmers and rural dwellers.

Deputy Ferris said:

"This Report is revealing more for what it fails to say, rather than what it actually contains. For example, while it refers to a number of new Teagasc courses it fails to mention the effects of the scandalous closures and cutbacks in Teagasc centres which are seriously impairing the ability of Irish farmers to adapt to an ever changing and challenging environment. While referring to the implementation of decoupling it makes no reference to the lack of research and preparation that ought to have been done in many areas including the provision of entitlements to young farmers, and providing for those who took up the Early Retirement Scheme.

"The Report, in relation to horticulture and organic farming, nowhere provides practical ways in which these sectors can be expanded. For example, why did the Government not argue for more flexibility in the Single Payment to allow farmers to expand into those sectors which current regulations prevent them from doing? Also, why has this Government decided to do a u-turn on Genetically Modified food which presents a massive threat to the image of Irish food produce at home and abroad? The Report also claims that progress has been made on cross border animal health and disease prevention when in fact we know that almost nothing has been done in practical terms.

"One of the most pressing issues that needs to be addressed at present is the scandalous gap between the prices that farmers receive for their produce and those charged to customers by the major retailers. No reference is made to this despite evidence that farmers often receive barely 25% of the retail price. At the end of the day it is issues such as this which determine whether farmers are able to survive, and not vague generalisations and repeating unfulfilled commitments that were made when this Government came to power two years ago."ENDS

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