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Single Payment Scheme - Lands used for Potatoes and Fruit and Vegetables

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today outlined the progress she had made to date in her discussions with the European Commission in relation to the ineligibility of lands used for the production of potatoes and fruit/vegetables for the purposes of the Single Payment Scheme. This issue is of importance for growers of these products, in particular those who wish to consolidate their Single Payment entitlements.

The Commission has proposed the ending of this restriction in its proposals for the reform of the fruit and vegetables regime by making lands used for potato and fruit/vegetables production eligible from 2008 for the Single Payment. As this reform will not be completed in time for the 2007 Single Payment, lands used for the production of potatoes and fruit and vegetables will not be eligible to benefit from the Single Payment Scheme in 2007.

Minister Coughlan said that while these proposals are welcome, her officials had been in on-going discussions with the European Commission in order to find a solution in respect of 2007. The Minister said her Department has now received confirmation in writing from the Commission that it is considering a proposal to address this issue. The proposal would provide that unused entitlements in 2007 (either standard entitlements not claimed in 2005 and 2006 or National Reserve entitlements) could not be lost to the National Reserve in 2007 on the grounds of non-usage where the number of unused entitlements was equal to or less than the number of hectares used for the roduction of potatoes and fruit/vegetables declared by the applicant this year. The Minister said that if such an amendment is adopted it will be of particular importance to potato growers who wish to consolidate their entitlements in 2007.

The Minister confirmed that she had raised the matter with the European Commission earlier this week during the April meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. "I am determined that we achieve a satisfactory outcome to this issue," the Minister said. "My officials and I have been tirelessly pursuing this matter with the Commissioner and her officials for some time and, following discussions in the margins of this week's Agriculture Council meeting in Luxembourg, are now confident that the European Commission will find a solution to this problem," she added.

19 April, 2007

Date Released: 19 April 2007