Mayo farmers will be badly hit if the current crisis over REPS is not resolved, but island farmers will be the worst hit of all, Beverley Flynn TD has warned. The Mayo deputy was speaking after she met a deputation of Clare Island farmers at her office on Tuesday last.
“There is no better argument for the retention of REPS than to see the improvements which have been achieved by island farmers over the past 10 years,” she said. Deputy Flynn said that not only had REPS resulted in huge benefits to the environment and to the quality of rural life, but it had provided the income support to enable farm families to continue on the land.
The Fianna Fáil TD said that island farmers in particular were faced with severe obstacles in pursuing their livelihoods. “Island farmers on the one hand pay more for their inputs and more for their raw materials, and on the other hand pay more in bringing their stock to market and disposing of their produce.”
She went on to say that of the 40 farmers on Clare Island, the vast majority will find themselves excluded from REPS by 2010. “That is why I am urging the Minister for Agriculture to retain REPS entitlement for Mayo farmers, at least until any new acceptable replacement scheme is agreed on. The Minister must either allow REPS3 to continue, or else he must allow farmers to progress into REPS4 so that all farmers are treated equally.”
The Clare Island IFA group, which was led by branch chairman Martin Moran, had outlined the severe disadvantages posed for island farmers by way of increased input costs, the high costs of materials and construction, and the expenses of transporting their finished stock to the mainland for sale. They explained that basic construction costs of farm buildings and outhouses were twice as expensive for island farmers, simply because material had to be transported by sea and then processed on site on the island, rather than being purchased ready mixed from suppliers..
“We are talking about the preservation of rural life and of island life, and there must be a better way to keep our families on the land doing what they know best, and doing what they want to continue doing,” concluded Deputy Flynn.