The Dáil will debate a Fianna Fáil motion this week calling on the Government to reverse its cuts to the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS) and tackle rising diesel prices.
Farming, like many other sectors, has struggled in the recession and Deputy Ó Cuív has called on the Minister for Agriculture to do more to offer some respite. No help was given to farmers this year despite it being the worst summer on record.
“The food and agri-sector represents 20% of net-exports in Ireland; there are 300,000 jobs in the industry alone and it contributes €24 billion to the economy,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
“This sector is hugely important to the economy. We need to ensure it is protected but all we have seen from this Government is stealth cuts and a total refusal to provide information in relation to the cuts
“The new AEOS launched by the Minister does not go far enough, it is only a token effort compare to what is needed. He also tried to cut small farmers on marginal land out of DAS (Disadvantaged Area Scheme) by making changes to the minimum stocking density required under the scheme. There is also no urgency from the Minister to ensure a fully funded Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) will be retained, our fear is that the funding will be severely cut and this will be another example of all promises, no delivery from this Government.
“In the Dáil this week, Fine Gael and Labour have an opportunity to show their commitment to farmers and food-producers. Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion calling on the Government to recognise the crucial role that the agriculture sector plays in job creation and economic growth in this region.
“The motion calls on the Government to stop scaling back payments that are essential for small farmers. We are calling on the Minister to expand the new AEOS to 8,000 places and restore the original maximum payment of €5,000. It also calls on the Agriculture Minister to reverse changes he introduced to the minimum stocking density ratio under the DAS. We are also calling for a clear commitment to the Suckler Welfare Scheme and Sheep Grassland Scheme for 2013 and 2014.
“I would urge the Government to take decisive action to tackle rising diesel prices and to introduce an effective user rebate scheme that will alleviate the rising financial pressure on farmers, agriculture contractors and farmers.”