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Minister welcomes funding provided in 2008 Pre-Budget Outlook

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today welcomed the publication of the 2008 Pre-Budget Outlook by the Tanaiste and Minister for Finance which provides funding of €1.722 billion for her Department for the development of the agriculture, food and forestry sectors are concerned, in 2008. In addition, €110 million is being provided for the fisheries which, for technical reasons, is included in the Pre-Budget Outlook under the Vote for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The Minister said that the Pre-Budget Outlook represents a new approach to the annual Estimates procedure. The Outlook is drawn up on the basis of Existing Level of Service and on Budget Day, 5th December, the Tánaiste will present any budgetary additions together with his revenue proposals for 2008. The Minister added that it makes a great deal of sense to deal with expenditure and taxation in a single exercise, and she congratulated the Tánaiste on this initiative.

Minister Coughlan said that the allocation of €1.722 billion in the Pre-Budget Outlook was the practical expression of the Government's commitment to the development of a modern, efficient and sustainable agri-food industry. The Minister said that the funding reflected the Government's and her own objectives for the sector as outlined in the various policy statements and agreements, including the National Development Plan, Towards 2016 and the Rural Development Programme, 2007-2013. It also delivers on the Minister's own comprehensive programme to develop an efficient, consumer-orientated agri-food sector as set out in the Agrivision 2015 Action Plan.

Apart from this voted expenditure, the Minister pointed out that her Department will also disburse almost €1.4b in EU direct payments and market supports in 2008. She stressed that farmers can plan for the future with confidence in the knowledge that the funding for the Single Farm Payment is secure until 2013.

The Minister identified the following as the main elements of the funding provision for the agri-food sector in 2008

  • €171m has been made available for food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health. Apart from the clear imperative to ensure that food is safe for consumers, the Minister said that these measures are a key component in making our product more marketable, particularly in the context of developing new market outlets. While Ireland has been successful in retaining its high animal health status, the Minister said but there is no room for complacency, as events across Europe this year have shown.
  • More than €1b is provided for measures under the Rural Development Programme and for capital investment in the dairy, beef, sheepmeat and farm sectors. This includes €375m for the Rural Environment Protection Scheme, €257m for Income Support in Disadvantaged Areas, €68m for Early Retirement and Installation Aid Schemes, €121m for investment in the Forestry Sector and Bio-Energy, and €183m for schemes of on-farm investment, including Farm Waste Management.
  • Some €27m is provided to support the efforts of An Bord Bia to promote Irish produce in overseas markets which, the Minister said, is more vital than ever in the face of increasing competition from non EU producers.
  • More than €175m has been provided for Research and Training, including almost €133m for Teagasc, the State Agricultural Research and Training Body. Separate funding is also provided to Teagasc to fund a major investment programme in its research facilities. The Minister said that investment in Research and Development is essential for improving profitability and in developing the innovative approaches to production and processing which are needed to give Irish produce a competitive advantage in increasingly globalised markets.

Insofar as fisheries in concerned, the Minister said that arrangements are now almost complete to formally transfer responsibility for this area to her Department and she was looking forward to implementing a comprehensive programme, including the strategy as outlined in the Cawley Report which has been approved by Government, for the development of the industry.

18 October, 2007

Date Released: 18 October 2007