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The Future for the Agriculture Sector is Smart and Green

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today said that, in order for it to fulfil its undoubted growth potential, the Irish agriculture sector and the agri-food industry must maintain a strong collective focus on the need to produce high-quality food in an efficient, competitive, and sustainable manner. Speaking following his announcement of more than €12.5 billion in Common Agricultural Policy and exchequer funding for the sector in the period to 2020, the Minister said that a robust financial framework is now in place to assist the sector to do so.

“I believe that huge progress has been made recently by the agri-food industry in sharpening its focus on the critical areas of improving competitiveness and enhancing sustainability.  The competitiveness challenge has been taken on through efforts by my own Department, by Teagasc and by the industry to encourage farmers to adopt best practice through participation in technology adoption programmes in the dairy, beef and sheep sectors, while the industry itself has invested heavily in additional processing capacity, research and development, and lean management techniques. Important work has also been done on establishing and demonstrating our sustainability credentials, most notably through Bord Bia’s Origin Green campaign and its beef and dairy sustainability schemes. It is my intention to build on this work through the programme of initiatives I announced this week.”

The Minister went on to describe how Direct Payments and Rural Development funding will contribute to further progress in these areas:

Competitiveness

Direct Payments (€8.5 billion)

  • The redistribution of up to €103 million in direct payments in the period up to 2020 will allow farmers with historically low payments the scope to develop their farms sustainably.
  • Innovation and new ideas will be encouraged through the use of 2% of the national financial ceiling for 25% top-up payments to young farmers under 40 years of age for a period of five years (worth up to €16,000 on 50 hectares),
  • Similarly, a national reserve of 3% of the Basic Payment Scheme ceiling will be set aside for the allocation of payment entitlements on a priority basis to young farmers,

Rural Development (€4 billion)

  • Incentives for on-farm capital investment across all sectors, but initially focussing on support for the expansion of the dairy sector following quota abolition in 2015,
  • A separate strand of the capital investment support will be ring-fenced for young farmers with a higher rate of aid intensity of 60% (general rate of 40%),
  • €20 million per year in knowledge transfer and innovation measures that will help to embed best practice and innovative solutions across the agri-food sector,
  • Up to €52 million per year will be spent on a new and highly innovative beef data and genomics measure designed to significantly improve the genetic quality of the beef herd,
  • A targeted advisory measure on animal health and welfare,
  • Beef quality schemes to assist marketing of local products through EU programmes,

 

Sustainability

Direct Payments

  • ‘Greening’ of direct payments, with 30% of each farmer’s payment made for complying with environmental and climate criteria,
  • Young farmer top-up payments and national reserve allocations will also help to introduce more sustainable approaches to farming,

Rural Development

  • A substantial new agri-environment/climate scheme (GLAS) will build on the progress made under REPS and AEOS. When fully up and running, 50,000 farmers will receive a maximum payment of €5,000, with a possible further €2,000 payment for a limited number of farmers who take on particularly challenging actions,
  • Knowledge transfer and innovation measures will lead to skill development and behavioural change that will facilitate more efficient and sustainable production,
  • Incentives for on-farm capital investment, including in relation to slurry storage, will be targeted at achieving environmental and climate change objectives,
  • The new Beef Data and Genomics measure will allow maximum exploitation of Ireland’s grass-based production system, ensuring the greatest possible environmental sustainability, as well as contributing to food safety by adding further traceability capacity,
  • Continued support for organic farming, with organics incorporated into GLAS as a priority action.

Concluding, the Minister said that these measures will reinforce the progress already made and provide the foundation on which Ireland’s ‘sustainable intensification’ will be based over the coming decade.

 He said: “If the Irish agri-food industry is to flourish, if farmers’ incomes are to increase and the economic viability of rural areas is to be strengthened, there must be a relentless focus on the competitive and sustainable production of food. Our grass-based production system gives us a head start, and we must learn to exploit this natural competitive advantage in a sustainable way. I am determined to help the sector to do so, and the tools have now been provided to help us to get on with the job.”

Date Released: 16 January 2014