By using this website, you consent to our use of cookies. For more information on cookies see our privacy policy page.

Text Size: a a
Home A-Z Index Subscribe/RSS Contact Us Twitter logo small white bird

"Budget Protects Farmers and Agri-Food Sector" - Minister Smith

-DAS and SCWS expenditure maintained at 2009 levels

-Launch of new Agri-Environment Scheme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today said that "Budget 2010 protects the vital agricultural schemes, with funding for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and REPS being maintained at 2009 levels as well as confirming that a new agri-environment scheme will be launched next year."

Minister Smith said that the Government recognised the fact that the agriculture sector has experienced a particularly difficult year, with low commodity prices and poor weather impacting adversely on farmers' incomes. He expressed his satisfaction that the Government had accepted that argument as reflected in the decisions

  • to maintain spending on the Disadvantaged Area Scheme at the 2009 level of €220 million;
  • to continue the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme payments in 2010 at the 2009 rate of €40 per animal; and
  • to continue payments to existing REPS' participants and to launch a new agri-environmental scheme in 2010.

Minister Smith also said that, while discussions with the European Commission on the new agri-environment scheme, were continuing, "the Minister for Finance has agreed to provide for the launch of the new scheme at a rate of up to €5,000 for approximately 10,000 participants, which corresponds with the numbers leaving REPS in 2010."

The Minister emphasised that €330 million will be spent on agri-environment schemes in 2010. The apparent reduction in the estimates provision reflects the €39 million brought forward to 2009 in the Supplementary Estimate, which will be of assistance in improving the cashflow situation of thousands of farmers. All existing REPS contracts will continue to be honoured and the amount being spent on REPS in 2010 will again be among the largest amount ever spent on the scheme in any given year. Minister Smith also confirmed that the Organic Farming Scheme, which has been temporarily suspended, will re-open on 1 January 2010.  In addition, the provision for horticulture is being maintained at 2009 levels of €4 million, which will facilitate a call for new horticulture investment projects in 2010.

Having brought forward, from 2010, €45 million in expenditure under the Farm Waste Management Scheme, Minister Smith said that the 2010 estimate provides for the payment of the remainder of the second 40 per cent instalment of the deferred payments, which will be paid in January 2010. By then, approximately €1 billion or almost 90 per cent of the total grant aid, which is entirely Exchequer funded, will have been paid.

The Minister also confirmed that overall expenditure on forestry and bioenergy will increase in 2010 to more than €121 million, which includes a capital provision of €116 million with an increased provision of almost €105 million for forestry planting and premia, demonstrating the Government's continued commitment to this vital sector, as set out in the recently revised Programme for Government.

The Supplementary Estimate, approved by the Dáil last night, provided for an additional €15 million for the Farm Improvement Scheme in 2009, bringing to €30 million the total expenditure on the Scheme this year. The 2010 Estimate allocates a further €19 million to the scheme, an increase of €4 million (27 per cent) on the original 2009 allocation.

The Minister confirmed that a number of new schemes under the revised Rural Development Programme (RDP), which are in negotiation with the European Commission, will be launched next year and, although significant expenditure is unlikely to take place until 2011, Mr Smith said that these schemes will provide a welcome boost to the sectors concerned. The new schemes provide for funding for the pig, poultry, sheep and dairying sectors and will be formally launched once Commission approval is secured.

Today's estimate does not include EU funding of €1.34 billion, which will bring total expenditure by the Department in 2010 to over €3 billion. The Department has paid approximately €1.24 billion in the 2009 Single Payment Scheme (SPS) or 99 per cent of the total SPS budget.

The grants-in-aid to each of the State agencies under the Department's aegis will be substantially maintained in 2010, although some further operational efficiencies will be required.  In Bord Iascaigh Mhara's case, the reduction in their grant-in-aid is largely accounted for by the conclusion of the very successful decommissioning scheme which has significantly restructured the Irish fishing fleet and a number of significant efficiencies which the company has identified for implementation in 2010.

The Department's funding for investment in fish processing and aquaculture development is also maintained at 2009 levels. A reduction in the funding for investment in fishing harbours reflects the fact that a number of major projects have been completed in recent years.

The Minister confirmed that significant funding will continue to be provided for the food industry in 2010 in the form of marketing and processing grant aid to meet commitments under the Beef and Dairy Investment Schemes, as well as through funding for investment in Research and Development. The Minister also warmly welcomed the decision of the Government to approve a €100 million fund to improve the food industry's competitiveness over the next four years. 

Minister Smith said that the investment will "support research and development, innovation and competitive manufacturing initiatives, which will be operated by Enterprise Ireland and marketing initiatives under the remit of Bord Bia. This is a critical sector which employs 45,000 people and supports exports of some €8 billion annually. Funding of €9.5 million is being provided in 2010, of which €2.5 million will be allocated to Bord Bia in the Revised Estimate to enable it to undertake targeted marketing initiatives, which reflects the very valuable role Bord Bia plays in promoting Irish food and drink products both at home and abroad."

The Minister said that, while his Department's overall Vote for 2010 was down by €247 million on the revised amount 2009 (including the €85 million provided in the Supplementary Estimate approved by the Dáil last night). This reduction is largely accounted for by a significant reduction in the funding required in relation to support the pigmeat industry, a reduction in the running costs of the Department, reflected in the administrative budget and payroll adjustments as well as a significant amount of spending on REPS and the Farm Waste Management Scheme being brought forward to 2009, in the Supplementary Estimate.

Minister Smith also welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Finance that he proposes to introduce tax relief from the income levy for capital expenditure incurred by farmers specifically for the purposes of complying with the EU Nitrates Directive. The Minister said that he "acknowledged the very considerable investment made by farmers to upgrade their farm waste facilities, in which they were assisted by the Farm Waste Management Scheme.  The introduction of this relief recognises farmers' investment in their on-farm infrastructure and will be of very considerable benefit to them."

Minister Smith concluded by acknowledging that these are very difficult times for the economy with particular pressure on public expenditure. The Minister said that "nonetheless, it is important that the Government continues to invest in the productive sectors of the economy, particularly those with the potential to generate significant foreign earnings, including agriculture and the wider agri-food sector. In this regard, I am satisfied that the Government has struck an appropriate balance between the need to take the necessary corrective action in the public finances, while continuing to target investment in productive sectors such as agriculture."

Date Released: 09 December 2009