Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 29 November, 2006
Written Answers. - Social Partnership Agreements.
Ms Hoctor Ms Hoctor
Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the main elements of the recent partnership agreement with the farming organisations. [40264/06]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan: The new social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, is the most ambitious and complex yet. To allow for long-term policies to be put in place, Towards 2016 has a unique ten-year framework. The shared overall goal of Towards 2016 is to realise its objectives by enhancing the complementary relationship between social and economic prosperity and by developing a vibrant, knowledge-based economy where economic development is environmentally sustainable and internationally competitive.
This approach is very much in line with the commitments laid out in the agriculture chapter of Towards 2016, where the overriding objective is the sustainable development of a competitive farming and consumer focused agri-food business which contributes to a vibrant rural economy and society. This also reflects the thinking about the  future of the sector set out in the Agri Vision 2015 Action Plan.
One of the key features of the agriculture chapter is the Government’s willingness to provide a major increase in funding for agriculture from Exchequer resources. This has not only made up for the inevitable decline in EU funding, due to our economic success, but has also provided the finance for the very significant enhancement of some major schemes which support the development of the sector.
The partnership agreement provides that Exchequer funding for the farm schemes under the Rural Development Programme will be €4.7 billion for the period 2007 to 2013. This is an increase of 135% from the €2 billion in Exchequer funds provided for the same schemes in the current round 2000-2006. The total funding for the agricultural measures is €6.8bn, including €2.1bn from EU and modulation.
The new draft rural development programme reflects the commitments contained in the partnership agreement and will cover both agricultural and non-agricultural measures. In line with the EU rural development framework, the measures in the programme will address competitiveness and sustainability. The main elements and expected outcomes are as follows:
A 17% increase in payments under the Rural Environmental Scheme (REPS). The average payment to each eligible participant will increase from €6,170 in 2006 to €7,220 in 2007 and the numbers in this scheme are expected to increase to 64,000.
An 8% increase in Disadvantaged Areas Scheme payments. The average compensatory allowance payment will increase from €2,297 (excluding modulation) to €2,481. Some 102,000 applicants will benefit from this 8% increase.
The average forestry premium will rise from €332 per hectare to €382 — an increase of 15%.
The Installation Aid rate will increase by 56%, bringing it up to €15,000.
A new Early Retirement Scheme will be put in place with a maximum payment rate of €15,000.
A total of €250m is allocated for an Animal Welfare, Recording and Breeding Scheme for Suckler Herds. This measure is included in the current draft rural development programme and is designed to help to ensure high animal welfare standards, to improve the quality of the national beef herd industry while enhancing the marketability of Irish beef in the increasingly discerning European market.
There is capital investment funding of €100 million to support the dairy processing sector. A similar €50m package for the beef  and sheepmeat processing sector has also been announced.
These are just some of the measures contained in the agriculture chapter of the partnership agreement, which is a very comprehensive document. It includes actions on all the main farming sectors as well as on the development of the food industry. It also includes important measures on animal health, including a 50% reduction in disease levies, and includes commitments to continuing high levels of service to farmers by the Department. The strong focus on the future in the document is further underlined in the sections on ‘renewable energy’, ‘enhancing the environment’ and ‘measures to encourage structural change’.
The commitments in relation to the agri-food sector set out in this Partnership agreement are part and parcel of the Government’s positive vision for the future of the sector. That vision underlines the fact that delivering safe, high-quality, nutritious food, produced in a sustainable manner, to well-informed consumers in high-value markets is the optimum road for the future of the Irish food industry, and therefore for our farmers.
The recently agreed partnership agreement with the farming pillar has been an important achievement for this Government, and is clear evidence of its commitment to farmers and to rural life in Ireland.
Dáil Éireann 628 Written Answers. Social Partnership Agreements.