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Minister Coughlan publishes Annual Report for 2006

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced the publication of her Department's Annual Report for 2006. Commenting on the report, the Minister said it indicated that the year was "marked by the adoption by Government of a policy framework for the development of the agri-food sector over the next decade".

Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan

The Action Plan for the Future of the Agri-Food Sector was published in March. The Action Plan, which is the response to the Report of the Agri-Vision 2015 Committee, sets out a new vision for the future of the sector in the light of the major changes now impacting on it. In order to survive and grow, Ireland's agri-food industry must be highly competitive on both EU and world markets. The key points underlining the actions in the Plan are competitiveness, innovation and consumer focused marketing.

Rural Development

The Minister stated that the agriculture provisions of the new partnership, "Towards 2016", which are designed to address the issues of competitiveness and sustainability, were agreed with the Farming Social Partners. "Towards 2016" includes a commitment that Exchequer funding of €4.7 billion will be made available for the farm schemes under the Rural Development Programme in the period 2007- 2013.

She added that the Department's Rural Development Plan was submitted to the European Commission towards the end of the year. The Plan, partially co-funded by the Commission, provides for total expenditure of €7.5 billion and will implement a number of measures in the agriculture section of Towards 2016.

Sectoral Initiatives

The Minister said that a significant number of sectoral initiatives had been announced in 2006, including a major capital investment programme for the dairy processing sector.

"The Government committed ?100 million to the fund, to generate greater efficiencies in the processing industry and enable the sector to gain an increasing share of world markets."

A Capital Investment Aid Scheme for the beef and sheepmeat sectors, amounting to €50 million was also launched and was aimed at increasing efficiency in the primary processing sectors. In addition to these support packages, €250 million was allocated for an Animal Welfare, Recording and Breeding Scheme for suckler herds.

Single Payment

The Minister noted that 2006 was the first full year of the decoupled income support era and said that "agreement was secured from the European Commission to make advance payments under the Single Payment Scheme, to compensate farmers for the adverse weather conditions in late spring and early summer".

Between the October and December payment tranches some ?1.17 billion was paid to 118,000 farmers.

REPS

Minister Coughlan said that "the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) scheme was one of the big success stories of 2006".

By the time REPS 3 closed at the end of December, participation had reached 59,200. She added "I believe the environmental benefits of such high participation in this scheme will be of great benefit to the country as a whole".

Bioenergy

The Minister pointed out that the development of Bioenergy was a particular priority in 2006: "The potential of agriculture to contribute to the development of a sustainable bio-energy industry was recognised by the Government in the White Paper on bioenergy and the subsequent establishment of a Ministerial Task Force on Bioenergy. Provision of €14 million was made to cover a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging farmers to grow energy crops".

The report is available in both English and Irish on the Department's website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie

13 June, 2007

NOTE FOR EDITORS

The reporting of activities is structured around the Department's fifth Statement of Strategy 2005-2007. Under this model each action is shown in relation to its contribution to the Department's five goals. In addition the report covers the statutory requirement to report progress on the implementation of the Statement of Strategy, the operation of the Quality Customer Service Action Programme, progress on implementing the Programme for Government commitments, the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act and activities under the Land Acts.

Date Released: 13 June 2007