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Minister Coughlan announces Consultation on new 7 billion euro Rural Development Programme

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, announced a four-week public consultation process on Ireland's draft Rural Development Programme for the period 2007 to 2013. The programme provides for total public expenditure of some €7 billion across a range of measures.

Minister Coughlan said that the programme represented a comprehensive package for the agri-food sector over the next seven years. "It will make a major contribution to realising the objectives of Agrivision 2015 of establishing a competitive, consumer-focused agri-food sector which contributes to a vibrant rural economy, society and environment. The various elements of the programme are fully consistent with the specific recommendations set out in Agrivision 2015 action plan. They will help to ensure that agriculture can confidently face the opportunities ahead while respecting and enhancing the environment."

The programme is based on the EU rural development framework and the national rural development strategy which has been finalised following consultation with relevant representative organisations. That strategy, which reflects the outcome of the social partnership agreement on the agricultural elements, has now been formally submitted to the EU Commission for agreement.

The Minister said that support under draft Rural Development Programme will be directed at three main objectives - competitiveness, the environment, and quality of life/diversification.

The following are the main elements:

  • €3 billion for the Rural Environment Scheme (REPS) and Natura. This allows for a 17% increase in payments.
  • €1.8 billion for payments under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. This provides for an 8% increase in payment rates.
  • €968m for forestry including a 15% increase in premium rates.
  • €481m for farm restructuring through increased support for installation (€15,000 premium) and early retirement (maximum pension of €15,000).
  • €250m for the new suckler scheme and €150m for farm investment and energy crops.
  • €425m for quality of life/diversification measures within the remit of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The Minister acknowledged the contribution of stakeholders in the process to date. She stated: "Their participation on the national strategy and in the partnership talks has been extremely helpful in moving matters forward. I look forward to their contributions over the next four weeks with a view to finalising the programme. I intend to proceed to seek its early approval from the EU Commission with a view to implementation in 2007".

The Minister added that an independent evaluation had been completed and was available to the public. She drew particular attention to the environmental report contained in it and on which written submissions and observations are also invited. In highlighting the issue, the Minister remarked on the emphasis on environmental enhancement and protection in the programme.

The Minister said that the closing date for receipt of comments and submissions on the rural development programme and the environmental report is 7th December 2006. These and related documents are on the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie

Date Released: 08 November 2006