IFA Rural Development Chairman, Tom Turley, has warned the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, that farmers on low incomes will not tolerate any cuts in vital farm schemes, which impact on their incomes.
Mr Turley said that the Minister has indicated, at various meetings around the country, that he is contemplating cutting the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the REPS 4 payment. This will be resisted by farmers as these payments are vital to support farm income where returns from farming are still poor.
Farmers in Disadvantaged Areas are very dependent on direct payments. The 2010 Teagasc National Farm Survey clearly shows that Disadvantaged Areas and REPS payments made up 67% and 50% of cattle rearing and sheep farmer incomes respectively.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said that farmers in Disadvantaged Areas have already suffered severe cuts when 37,000 farmers in Disadvantaged Areas lost out by €1,000 in the 2008 Budget. This cut hit mostly those who are dependent on farming and farmers in hill areas.
On REPS 4, Mr. Turley reminded Minister Coveney that payments were cut by 17% in 2009. Also farmers in REPS have undertaken measures and incurred compliance costs which have to be recouped over the 5 years of the Environmental Plan.
“Any attempts by Minister Coveney to cut payments will be seen as a breach of contract by the Government and the EU,” he warned.
Concluding, Minister Coveney must ensure that all payments due under REPS / AEOS are fully paid in 2011. This will take pressure off next year’s Budget. The Minister must also have an AEOS scheme available for those farmers who are leaving REPS 3.