Coveney unable to ring-fence farm funds

Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 01:00

NATIONAL PLOUGHING CHAMPIONSHIPS:MINISTER FOR Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he cannot make a commitment to ring-fence funds for farmers in the upcoming budget.

He said he would be trying to maximise funds for agriculture during the budget negotiations “but it’s certainly far too early for me to start making absolute commitments in terms of ring-fencing funds”.

“I’m trying to deliver as much as I can, but I do have severe restrictions in terms of budgetary ceilings that are imposed on me, both by the Department of Finance and by the troika because of broader economic conditions that people understand only too well.”

Mr Coveney was speaking at the second day of the National Ploughing Championships in Heathpark, New Ross.

He said he had “no problem” with the day of action planned by the Irish Farmers Association for October 9th. It will include a street protest in Dublin.

“We live in a democracy. I listen to what the IFA have to say on a weekly basis, and I’ll be listening to them on October 9th too.”

IFA president John Bryan said he was getting strong support from farmers for the day of action.

“Based on the large numbers calling to the IFA stand there is a clear understanding of the importance of driving home the message that the EU Commission and the Government must fully support primary production and rural communities.”

Mr Coveney said he was doing all he could to help farmers cope with the after-effects of the bad summer and had brought payments forward where possible.

“On October 16th about half a billion euro will be going out to Irish farmers across the country. The other half of that money will be coming in December, and of course this week we’ll have about €150 million of support going out to farmers that are farming in disadvantaged areas.”

Mr Coveney also said the drive to get Common Agricultural Policy reforms agreed during Ireland’s hosting of the EU presidency next year was something “that I think about day and night at the moment, and in many ways is the most significant challenge of my political career at the moment”.

Meanwhile, ICMSA president John Comer warned Mr Coveney that plans for expansion of farm enterprises would come to nothing if the volatility in milk prices continued. He said the Government must commit to a policy of actively overseeing margins and managing milk production in a manner that attempted to match supply to demand within an EU context.

He said milk prices were only beginning to recover from the slump that followed the improved prices of last year “and this kind of price see-saw was especially destructive of dairy farmers given their total dependence on farming for their income”.