Thursday, 15 October 2009
Department of Agriculture and Food
Question 58: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for the future development of the agricultural sector; if he is conscious of the need to ensure security of supply and a reliable price structure for producers; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the farming community in this area at the current time; the steps he will take to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36201/09]
As Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I fully acknowledge the difficulties facing the farming community this year and have been consistently working both within Government and at EU level, to alleviate the current problems being faced by the sector. I have initiated a series of measure to assist the sector, a key element is the bringing forward of the single farm payment and I have also negotiated and retained significant support measures which have been put in place by the EU Commission in relation to the dairy sector.
With regard to the future, work is being advanced on the introduction of a new development plan for the agri-food sector in the period up to 2020 to maintain the impetus gained from the successful 2010 and 2015 strategies. This plan will naturally address major issues such as food security, competitiveness and market focus.
Question 59: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has calculated the full extent of the negative impact on individual producers of budgetary cutbacks imposed by his Department in 2009; if it is intended to introduce any amelioration measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36200/09]
The impact of the decisions taken in the 2009 budget and supplementary budget will vary from individual to individual depending on their participation in certain schemes or the extent to which they may benefit from the measures affected.
The Deputy will be aware that the 2009 budget and supplementary budget were framed against the background of a global recession and a serious deterioration in the public finances. As a small open economy Ireland is, of course, particularly exposed to the global downturn and the international credit crisis. In response to this situation, the Government embarked on a strategy to restore the credit system, get the public finances under control and to provide the necessary stimulus to restore confidence in the economy. It was against this background that the very difficult decisions taken in the context of determining the budgetary allocations for agriculture were made.
Notwithstanding the difficult economic and budgetary situation, funding of €1.9 billion gross is provided for my Department in the 2009 budget. When combined with EU funding of about €1.4 billion administered by my Department, this represents a very substantial commitment by Government to supporting and developing the agri-food sector.
Furthermore, in recognition of the difficult circumstances in which farmers find themselves, I have announced the commencement of advance payments of 70% of the single payments scheme payments amounting to €800 million which will commence in the next few days. This is the first time that an advance of this magnitude has been paid at this early stage of the year. The payment of some €220 million under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme commenced last month. The combination of these two schemes with the REP scheme and the suckler cow scheme will result in payments by my Department of more than €1.8 billion to Irish farmers in 2009. This is in addition to more than €300 million in investment support available for the agri food and fisheries sectors, and almost €120 million in supports for the forestry and bio energy sectors.
Work is also continuing on a number of other fronts, including continuing investment in R&D in the agri sector, the provision of investment support for the processing sectors, the protection of Irish farms from animal and plant diseases. I am also continuing my efforts, along with ministerial colleagues in other like minded member states, to ensure the deployment of the full range of EU market support instruments to support the dairy sector through this very difficult time.
I am also proceeding with efforts to further develop the agriculture sector within the budgetary constraints. In that context, I recently announced my intention to introduce a new €179 million Agri Environment Scheme, a new targeted on farm investment scheme worth €113 million, and proposals to spend €75 million in unspent single payment scheme funds to support incomes in the sheep sector and efficiency improvements on dairy farms. I am acutely aware of the pressure on farm incomes and of the difficulties being faced by farm families and I am firmly committed to providing the highest possible levels of support for them and for the agri-food sector.