December 7, 2011
As announced in Ireland's December 5 budget, farmers in the REPS4 scheme will get a 10% cut in payments, while the qualifying criteria for those farming in disadvantaged areas will also change under measures.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney also said a consultation process on plans to introduce a milk levy of one-tenth of one cent on a litre of milk would begin soon and appealed to farmers to "work with me" as his Department seeks to save money while not disrupting one of the best-performing sectors. Coveney said agriculture could not be exempt from cost-saving measures when spending in his Department will fall by EUR168 million (US$225.4 million).
Those in REPS4 [Rural Environment Protection Scheme] will see a 10% cut in rates in what the minister said was "the only blunt cut measure". Farmers receiving payments under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) will see a change in the qualifying criteria, doubling the stock rate from the current level of one sheep per hectare to two sheep per hectare, and a doubling of the time period when those animals must be maintained, from the current minimum limit of three months to six months. The minister stressed "active farmers" would not be affected, with the measures aimed at "hobby" farmers.
In addition, those farmers with land that has both advantaged and disadvantaged areas within it will receive DAS payments based only on the disadvantaged section. The minister would consider a limited AEOS3 (Agri-Environment Options Scheme) in the New Year.
Some 20,000 farmers are likely to be affected by the DAS and many more by the REPS4 measures, although the minister said there was a "very fair" appeals system open to those affected.
Overall, there will be a 10.6% cut in actual spend by the Department, according to the 2012 estimates, with EUR30 million (US$40.3 million) saved through the DAS, EUR19 million (US$25.5 million) through the REPS4, EUR10 million (US$13.4 million) on anticipated lower disease incidence, EUR6 million (US$8.05 million) in grant aid to non-commercial state sponsored bodies, EUR12 million (US$16.1 million) in administration costs and EUR28 million (US$37.6 million) in miscellaneous savings.
However, schemes such as the suckler cow scheme will continue and, if the milk levy plan goes ahead, the minister said the money would be spent on aggressively pursuing marketing of Irish dairy products overseas, including additional personnel in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The minister said EUR18.2 million (US$24.4 million) would be saved at departmental and associated agencies level, while decentralisation of staff to Fermoy, Macroom and Enniscorthy will not go ahead and there will be no further decentralisation of staff to Clonakilty.
President of the Irish Farmer's Association John Bryan said the levy proposal would come as a shock to farmers, especially when households will be hit by other budget cuts, and he added: "The option of entering an AEOS3 scheme in 2012 must be available to all farmers leaving REPS3."