The viability of farming and the rural economy in the west depends on the provision of properly-funded farm schemes.
That’s according to IFA president John Bryan who spoke at the Connacht Gold forum on farming in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, on Wednesday night.
The theme of the conference was ‘Ireland west agriculture - its role in economic recovery’ and it was addressed by an expert panel who discussed the prospects for farming, CAP reform, and economic recovery.
The panel included Gerry Boyle, Teagasc; Sean Brady, Irish Dairy Board; John Bryan, IFA; Jackie Cahill, ICMSA; Aaron Forde, Connacht Gold; Cathal Garvey, dairy farmer; John Horgan, Kepak; Jim Power, Friends First; and was chaired by Damien O’Reilly of RTÉ.
Mr Bryan told the large attendance that “over 20,000 farmers in the west participate in REPS, which is one-third of the overall national figure. The scheme, which is valued at €125m in the region, provides a huge economic spin-off in one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country. The economic impact of the REPS scheme is felt in every town and village in Connacht.”
The IFA president said that farmers must be provided with a meaningful, new, REPS scheme and the maximum payment level of €5,000 mentioned by the Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith was totally inadequate to meet the cost of compliance with the new REPS requirements, and must be increased. In Connacht alone, there are 10,000 farmers in REPS 3 who must have a meaningful scheme available to them once they finish their REPS contract.
Twenty six thousand suckler farmers in the region have signed up to the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, which is a critical element in maintaining Ireland’s suckler herd that underpins beef exports of €1.6bn.
The forum heard that farmers in Connacht have invested €600m under the Farm Waste Management Scheme to comply with the Nitrates Directive. Mr Bryan said this investment will add to the already high environment standards that farmers meet and enhance the attractiveness of the countryside for visitors.
The IFA president said a fully-funded CAP budget post-2013 was crucial for farm families in a region such as Connacht. “The importance of the Single Farm Payment cannot be overstated. The rural economy depends on the farming community to drive jobs and exports. Any reduction in the budget would have serious implications for the wider region,” he concluded.