Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
41. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to support agricultural development in less favoured areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39015/11]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): The Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important Scheme for the country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland’s total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions. The Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, as implemented in Ireland, compares very favourably with the aid paid to farmers in other Member States both from the point of view of the rate of aid payable and the number of farmers covered. In fact, less than 50% of all farmers situated in Less Favoured Areas across the EU do not benefit from aid under this Scheme.
While it was necessary to reduce the total funding for the Scheme as part of the recent budgetary process, I am pleased that there will be no change in either the rates of aid payable or the total maximum areas payable under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.
I am introducing targeted reform in the Disadvantaged Areas Payments, which will be achieved through reform of the stocking density, retention period and other elements of the scheme. The changes being introduced will favour active farmers, who are farming exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and are subject to clearance by the European Commission.
The Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme is also an important measure for many farmers situated in Less Favoured Areas. This fully nationally funded Scheme will continue in place and I have provided the necessary funding to meet all payments due in 2012 at the current rates of €40 per cow. Over the next few days, my Department will pay over €12.3 million to 21,000 farmers, the vast majority of which are situated in Less Favoured Areas.
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