Liam Aylward MEP for Ireland East and Member of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development has criticised the Government for targeting cuts at the most vulnerable farmers living in disadvantaged areas.

The REPs scheme is to be cut by €19 million and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme will have its funding reduced by €30 million in 2012.

“At a time when we are fighting in Europe for an agricultural budget that will allow farmers to deliver on food security and will give them a fair and just return for their work, it is unacceptable that the Government can send a message to the EU that schemes such as REPS (Rural Environmental Protection Scheme) and Disadvantaged Areas are expendable and Irish farmers can do without supports in this sector.

Given that the future of the agriculture budget is being locked in with “greening” measures and funding is being made conditional at farm level, based on environmental and “greening” activity, it is contradictory and short sighted of the government to cut funding on the very schemes that assist Irish farmers in being among the most environmentally friendly and sustainable in Europe.

If we can’t fully support these schemes, our defence of the “green” nature of Irish agriculture and arguments for flexibility for Irish farmers based on their environmental track record will be weakened and hollow at the EU level. 

The Government have taken an ill-judged decision in cutting the funding that supports Ireland’s most vulnerable farmers and have weakened our hand in CAP negotiations on the Rural Development budget and flexibility on “greening” measures for Irish farmers.”