Thursday, 14 October 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
Common Agricultural Policy
8. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the percentage of the European agricultural fund for rural development, EAFRD, that must be utilised for the purposes of LEADER; and the percentage she has sought for the programme for 2023 to 2027. [50094/21]
In the round, I am trying to glean from the Minister a perspective on the next Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and how Pillar II falls in respect of LEADER funding and the co-funding. It would be useful to know what percentage is in the mind of the Minister for co-funding on Pillar II elements. We are hearing 80% or 90%. Perhaps the Minister could give us some view on that.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 11 together.
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The LEADER programme is a key intervention implemented by my Department ,which will help to underpin the Government's rural development goals, as outlined in Our Rural Future. The programme is co-funded by the EU under Pillar Il of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is Ireland's managing authority for the CAP and thus has lead responsibility for negotiations of the new policy, which is to be introduced from 2023. My officials are engaging extensively with both the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the EU Commission on the design of a new LEADER programme to form part of the new CAP strategic plan. The EU regulations governing the new CAP state that at least 5.5% of the EU funding available for the CAP strategic plan shall be reserved for LEADER and that the maximum permissible Exchequer co-funding rate for the next LEADER programme will be 80%. On foot of the agreement of the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, with the EU, the total amount of EU funding available for Pillar Il payments across all schemes for the period 2023 to 2027 will be more than €1.5 billion. It is important to me to maintain a significant level of funding for the LEADER Programme, to ensure it can continue to deliver for rural Ireland. In this regard, I secured an additional €70 million in funding for a transitional LEADER programme, which will cover the period to the end of 2022 to ensure that there is no gap between the end of the current programme and start of the next one. The allocations of funding across all the new CAP schemes are currently being finalised, and my Department is in ongoing communication with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to this process. It is expected that indicative scheme allocations, including for the next LEADER programme, will be announced shortly to form the basis for the next stage of stakeholder consultation.
I thank the Minister for her response. We acknowledge the additional €70 million that has been provided but we are starting from a pretty low base. The €200 million allocated for 2016 to 2020 is way down on the €400 million that had been allocated historically. We are hopeful that the Minister will be successful in clawing back that money and increasing the amount necessary to provide for Pillar II. Have there been bilateral engagements at between both Departments at ministerial level?
My second question is more of a point. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is saying that this is farmers' money. There are some of us who would argue that while it is farmers' money, it is also money that should go to rural Ireland and there needs to be a certain countering of that narrative. I would like to get the Minister's perspective on that as well.
I am very committed to ensuring that a sufficient budget is allocated to LEADER to allow it to continue to successfully deliver a range of locally-led projects across rural Ireland in the new CAP period of 2023 to 2027. This will entail both EU funding and a significant Exchequer contribution. It is expected that all scheme allocations for the range of schemes in the new CAP will be announced shortly and these will form the basis for further stakeholder consultation. My officials are engaging closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine but I have also spoken to the Minister and I know he has been out around the country doing consultations in many different areas and it is his plan to make an announcement shortly. We will have to wait until he does that but it is expected that the announcement will be soon. I know he is doing his best to deliver for Ireland on this CAP funding, which is important.