Changes to schemes and reforms

Announcing his expenditure estimates for 2012 today the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said that despite the on-going serious difficulties in the public finances, today’s expenditure announcement was a strong statement of support for the agri-food sector and a recognition of the contribution which the sector can make to economic recovery and future growth in the Irish economy.

The Minister has announced a range of measures which will support the Food Harvest 2020 objectives (Government blue print for Agri-food sector developed with the food and drinks industry and chaired by the Minister), contributing to jobs and growth in the agri-food sector.

Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme: The continuation of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme at the current rates.

Beef discussion groups: Allocation of €5m towards the establishment of a Beef Technology Adoption Programme which will build on the work done to date under the Better Farm Programme. This will give beef farmers additional skills to increase productivity.

The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes: The re-opening of a range of Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) which had been suspended earlier in the year because of the uncertain budgetary situation. Funding of €20m in 2012 to enable all of the schemes to re-open,  – Poultry and Pig Welfare, Dairy Equipment, Sheep Handling and Rainwater Harvesting Schemes, as well as the Bio-energy scheme (the Bio –energy scheme is now opened, closing date of January 18th 2012). In addition to providing an incentive for farmers to invest in their enterprises and secure their futures, these schemes will make a worthwhile contribution to job creation and to the maintenance of existing jobs in rural areas.

Forestry: Expenditure for Forestry will amount to €111.76. This increased forestry funding of €112 million will allow afforestation to continue at roughly 7,000ha per annum as well as providing for the building of forest roads. There is no change in relation to the rate of payment of forestry premia, which continue at current levels.

Seafood sector: The marine and fisheries sector is particularly important to coastal communities. In addition to funding for investment schemes in the processing sector, aquaculture development and fishery harbours, there has been an increase in the grant-in-aid for BIM in recognition of the on-going valuable role which it plays in the development of the fishing sector but also in view of the added responsibility which it will have in relation to the deep sea aquaculture.

Harbours: The Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Capital Programme provides funding for works at the six State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, (Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Dingle, Ros a Mhíl and Killybegs) as well as other Local Authority owned harbours and landing places around the coast.

Milk levy: The Minister is beginning the consultation process for the introduction of a milk levy in the new year. The funding will be ring fenced for dairy products promotion through Bord Bia, including identifying new markets and opportunities to cater for the expanded output from 2015.

Animal Health Initiatives: New initiatives in relation to animal health including:

  • A voluntary BVD eradication programme
  • A new initiative to tackle Johnes Disease
  • Changes to the brucellosis testing for dairy herds

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme: There are no changes in either the rates or the eligible areas qualifying for a disadvantaged area payment, despite the fact that expenditure would be reduced by some €30 million in 2012. This lower financial limit would be achieved by the introduction of targeted reform in the Disadvantaged Areas Payments, which will be achieved through reform of the stocking density, retentions period and other elements of the scheme. The changes being introduced will favour active farmers and are subject to clearance by the European Commission.

Changes to Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

  • The minimum stocking density has been increased from 0.15lu/ha to 0.30lu/ha.
  • The minimum retention period has been increased from 3 months to 6 months and will be calculated over 12 months.
  • Exclusion of horses from the stocking density calculation (not including breeding horses)
  • There is an exclusion for land more that 80 kilometres from a farmer’s main holding.

REPS 4: Due to the financial pressures, but to reduce payments by 10% in future years.  This change is subject to approval by the EU Commission.

Reform: The Minister is determined to ensure that all schemes and services are delivered by the Department as efficiently and effectively as possible. Between the Department and State bodies there will be a saving of €18m.

Department Review of Expenditure: The Department is engaged in a major and ongoing programme of significant re-organisation at all levels which will result in further significant reduction in the Administrative Budget in 2012. As a result of this re-organisation is the following:

  • Reduction of €12m in administration costs of 2012
  • Reduction of €6m by States agencies costs
  • Reduction in Department staffing levels; from 4,800 in 2005 to less than 3,600 today, a reduction of over 25%.
  • Reduced the cost of running the Department; by some €60million, or approximately 20%, since 2008.
  • Reduced the number of local offices; when fully completed in 2012%