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Written Answers - Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 33.  Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  if he will confirm that disadvantaged area conditions will continue to apply to farmers whose main business is in disadvantaged areas but who also have land rented or owned in non-disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7070/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this 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 in excess of 100,000 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 budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme will be reduced from €220 million to €190 million and, in order to achieve the €30 million saving in expenditure, it is proposed to introduce specified changes to the Scheme eligibility criteria for 2012. This will be achieved by making technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers, whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in Less Favoured Areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme.

With the intention of targeting those farmers who are farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas, it is proposed that farmers, whose holdings consists of land situated both in Disadvantaged Areas and non-Disadvantaged Areas are in a better position from a farming viewpoint than those farming exclusively in Disadvantaged Areas. Therefore, it is proposed that where some of an applicant’s land declared is Disadvantaged land and his or her main holding is in a non disadvantaged area a digressive rate of aid under the Scheme will be payable. This digressive payment does not affect applicants whose main holding is in a disadvantaged area. This proposal is regarded as fair in that the greater proportion of Less Favoured Areas land in the holding the greater the level of payment.

[114]It is also proposed to exclude land situated more than 80 kilometres from a farmer’s holding from aid under the Scheme. This exclusion will be confined to applicants, whose main holding is situated in a non-Disadvantaged Area, and who declares land situated more than 80 kilometres from the main holding. It is contended that the local impact of the farming of those lands situated in the Disadvantaged Areas is marginal.

I would again stress that, in proposing the changes in question, the intention is to better focus the Scheme, which is to the benefit of the majority of those farming in areas with recognised constraints, while at the same time attempting to cater for those genuinely prevented from achieving the revised minimums. That the Scheme, which is co-funded by the EU, is an integral part of Ireland’s Rural Development Plan, 2007/2013, and as such, any proposed change to Scheme criteria requires the agreement of the EU Commission. In this regard, therefore, the changes announced in the context of the recent Budget have been submitted to Brussels; the Commission’s response is expected shortly.

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