A new agri environment scheme called GLAS and 60% grant aid to young farmers for farm buildings are two headline elements of the new rural development programme announced today by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
The new GLAS (green, low carbon agri-environment scheme) provides for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers, and a further payment of up to €2,000 for a limited number of farmers "who take on particularly challenging actions". Farmers will also welcome the news that annual Disadvantaged Area Payments of €195m are also protected.
At a press briefing shared with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney announced the allocation of more than €12.5 billion in Common Agricultural Policy and exchequer funding to the agriculture sector in the period to 2020.
Minister Coveney said: “In addition to the €8.5 billion in EU funding that will be paid in direct payments to farmers in the period up to 2020, I am delighted to announce that €1.9 billion in national funding will be added to the €2.2 billion EU funding already secured for expenditure on rural development."
The Minister announced that he has decided that Ireland should implement the so-called ‘partial convergence’ model. Under this approach, payments will move part of the way towards a national average rather than to the uniform payment also provided for under the CAP reform agreement. By opting for this approach, he is ensuring that the direct payments system is made fairer and more equitable while at the same time ensuring that the level of redistribution of payments between farmers is not of a scale that could jeopardise the achievement of the Food Harvest 2020 objectives.
The Minister said: “During the CAP reform negotiations I argued very strongly for Member States to be given the flexibility to tailor the reform outcome to their own farming circumstances. I am delighted now to be able to take what I believe to be full advantage of this flexibility. There will be significant transfers given that all entitlements must be valued at 60% of the national average entitlement value by 2019. However, I think I have struck the right balance between making the system fairer and supporting the sustainable development of the sector.”
The Minister also highlighted efforts to encourage the participation of young farmers in agriculture. He has decided to use the provisions of the CAP reform agreement as follows:
• the full 2% of the national ceiling will be allocated to young farmers, providing for a 25% ‘top-up’ on direct payments on up to 50 hectares for farmers under 40 years of age (worth more than €16,000 over the period where payment is made on the maximum area for the full five years of the scheme),
These direct payments measures will be complemented by further support under the Rural Development Programme, where a separate strand of the support for on-farm capital investment will be ring-fenced for young farmers at a higher rate of aid intensity of 60%.
The Minister emphasised that the priority in deciding how the Rural Development Programme would be structured was the need to ensure an effective contribution to the achievement of the Food Harvest 2020 objectives in a way that would complement the direct payments regime. He was pleased to be able to confirm the available funding of €1.9 billion at this point, which has allowed him to give an outline of the proposed new measures to be included in the Programme. These will be discussed in further detail with the stakeholders over the coming weeks before the Programme is submitted to the Commission for approval.
The Minister referred in more detail to the main areas to be targeted (in addition to young farmers as mentioned previously):
• a substantial new agri-environment/climate scheme (GLAS), which will build on the progress made under REPS and AEOS. This will provide for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers, and a further payment of up to €2,000 for a limited number of farmers who take on particularly challenging actions,
• continued strong support for disadvantaged areas (now Areas of Natural Constraint), to the tune of about €195 million per year,
• incentives for on-farm capital investment, including support for the expansion of the dairy sector following the abolition of milk quotas in 2015,
• a new beef data and genomics measure worth up to €52 million per year aimed at improving the genetic quality of the beef herd.
While there will be a dividend for beef production arising from dairy expansion, the Minister said that “it is critically important to recognise the specialist beef breeding sector as the seed bed for Ireland’s high quality indigenous beef industry. Public support for this vital sector must focus on increasing the value of its contribution to the economy, but also on addressing the key vulnerability of relatively poor efficiency and profitability at farm level.” This will be achieved through a combination of building on existing supports and adopting a more strategic approach, as exemplified by the following:
• the new beef data and genomics scheme (payment of €80 per calf),
• knowledge transfer measures that will improve key skills needed at farm level,
• the GLAS environmental scheme, payments for farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint and measures to encourage collaborative farming, which will especially benefit suckler farmers,
• the targeted advisory measure on animal health and welfare, and
• beef quality schemes to assist marketing of local products through EU programmes.
The Minister said that “with milk quotas to be abolished in 2015, significant investment will be required at farm level to manage the additional milk volumes targeted in Food Harvest 2020.” The Rural Development Programme will therefore support the sector through the following measures:
• support for capital investment for dairy equipment, including targeted support for young farmers setting up for the first time, will be a priority in the initial phase,
• knowledge transfer measures will be prioritised for dairy expanders and new entrants,
• targeted advisory service on animal health and welfare,
• support to partly offset the start up costs of approved collaborative farming arrangements.
The Minister highlighted the following:
• the €13 million Grassland Sheep Scheme is subsumed into the baseline Single Farm Payments figure for sheep farmers,
• knowledge transfer measures will help to improve efficiency and profitability in sheep production,
• the targeted advisory measure on animal health and welfare, support for collaborative farming arrangements and lamb quality schemes,
• the new GLAS environmental scheme and payments for farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint, will be of substantial benefit to sheep farmers,
• sheep farmers in particular will benefit from the redistribution of direct payments.
Pigs and Poultry
• Capital investment support will continue to be made available under the new Programme, subject to the phasing decisions made following the forthcoming consultations with stakeholders.
• Investment support will be made available for slurry storage on cereals farms.
• A new incentivised support programme for the protein sector will be introduced.
• A new Artisan Food Cooperation Scheme, comprised of annual grant support to help artisan food producers to improve and validate production quality, and improve the awareness and marketability of local and niche category products.
IFA President Eddie Downey said the seven-year investment, along with the CAP Pillar I Single Farm Payment, will allow agriculture to deliver jobs and export growth as part of the economic recovery and will help to meet the targets in Food Harvest 2020. On an annual basis, EU funding for the Single Farm Payment amounts to €1.2bn, and €313m for the Rural Development Programme. In addition, national funding will amount to about €270m per annum, which allows for a full drawdown of maximum funding.
Full details and analysis of the package of measures will be in this week's edition of the Irish Farmers Journal.