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Minister Smith welcomes €1.5 billion EU proposal

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today welcomed a move by the European Commission to provide additional funding for rural development. At a meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers today, Commissioner Fischer Boel announced that she will make a proposal to provide an additional €1.5 billion in EU funding to be used for the ¿new challenges¿ identified in the recent CAP Health Check and the provision of broadband in rural areas. The new challenges for the Common Agriculture Policy identified in the Health Check include climate change, biodiversity, water management and milk sector adjustment.

¿I have been pressing for some time for the EU to make use of the available, unused funds within the agreed expenditure ceiling for agriculture and rural development. I am glad to see that the Commission is now looking at this possibility,¿ said Minister Smith. The Minister said that there was still no formal proposal on the table and important aspects of the proposal were still unclear.

¿The devil is often in the detail in EU proposals, so we must reserve final judgement until we see the full details. It would be particularly important to us that Ireland receives a fair share of the these funds, reflecting our traditionally high spend on rural development measures, and that there should be reasonable flexibility allowed to Member States in how these funds are used within the rural development programme, which includes some of our largest agricultural schemes.¿ The Minister said that a key aspect of rural development policy was the discretion allowed to member states and this should apply on this occasion also. Ireland's rural development programme includes several major agriculture measures including the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and payments in disadvantaged areas.

The Council of Agriculture Ministers also discussed the current difficulties on the milk and pork markets, including the recently approved support measures being brought forward by the Commission in the dairy sector. They also considered a report from the Commission on food prices in the light of the recent volatility on international and European markets. Ministers also undertook a first examination of a proposal to tighten the regulations which guard against the use of timber from illegally felled trees.

19 January, 2009

Date Released: 19 January 2009