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Coughlan welcomes Revised Estimates

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today welcomed the publication of the Revised Book of Estimates for 2006.

The basic 2006 gross Estimates provision for her Department is approximately €1.5 billion (€1.498 billion). However, an additional €18.3 million in capital savings carried over from 2005 under the Government's capital envelope arrangements, brings the total voted funding for her Department to €1.516 billion, up some 12% on the 2005 outturn.

Minister Coughlan, pointed out that, in addition to the increased national Exchequer funding, her Department, will also administer EU funded direct payments to farmers and market supports which will amount to in excess of €1.5bn in 2006. This will bring total gross expenditure in her Department this year to over €3bn.

The Minister highlighted the very significant budgetary increases in a number of her Department's main expenditure programmes in 2006. She said that more funding than ever before was being put into a variety of agriculture based rural development schemes administered by her department. "These schemes underline the Government's commitment to assisting farmers in making the structural adjustments necessary to adapt and modernise in the post decoupling era."

These schemes include:

  • REPS, the provision for which has been increased by 14% to €323 million;
  • On Farm Investment Schemes, the provision for which has been increased by 83% to €76 million, primarily as a result of the inclusion of €43 million for the Farm Waste Management Scheme
  • Forestry, for which more than €136 million has been provided, when the carryover of capital savings is taken into account;
  • Early Retirement and Installation Aid, the provision for which has been increased by 18% over the 2005 outturn, to €79 million;
  • Income Supports in Disadvantaged Areas, for which more than €238 million has been provided.

Additionally, a new allocation of €1.9 million is being made available for a Beef Quality assurance Scheme. The details of this scheme will be discussed with meat processors and farmer producers.

Apart from these items, the Minister referred to the significant additional funding for Research and Training, the provision for which has been increased by 55% to almost €35 million. This includes a provision of €6m for the Stimulus Programme, which is aimed at filling R&D gaps in production agriculture, environment, rural economy and policy related requirements. In addition, €14 million has been provided for the Food Institutional Research Measure, which supports essential pre-commercial research for innovation in the food industry, and to underpin food safety. The Minister said that she was delighted with the expansion in this programme, which had in the past led to many new product and process developments, and has helped to provide a cadre of graduates to industry who are helping to stimulate an R&D culture in food companies.

In addition, more than €122 million has been made available for Teagasc, the agricultural research and training institute, and increased funding has been provided for research in the forestry sector, through the provision of €3.8 million for COFORD, the State's forestry research board.

The Minister said that these increased provisions underlined the Government's ongoing commitment to the agri-food sector. "I have every confidence in the future of this sector", she said. "But we need to encourage innovation, to develop new approaches to food production, processing and marketing, and to focus on what the consumer wants. This will require imagination and commitment, a continued concentration on improving quality, and an enthusiastic exploration the potential for exploiting new options, such as the linkages between food, nutrition and health."

The Minister also pointed to funding available for the sector through a variety of schemes and services administered by her department. Referring to the Estimate for her department, she said that apart from the Single Farm Payment, significant funding was being provided in all of the essential areas, including R&D, which is so vital to the future of the agri food sector, and for a variety of schemes which can assist farmers in exploiting the income potential of their land to the maximum, while ensuring that the rural environment is cared for and protected.

"The Government has provided the necessary financial framework," she said, "and I would urge farmers to seriously consider the various income enhancing options available to them through the funding available from my Department."

23 February 2006

Date Released: 23 February 2006