9th January, 2012
ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has reacted angrily to reports of a renewed threat to vital farm schemes such as the Disadvantaged Area Scheme and the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme, as a result of the deliberations of the Central Expenditure and Evaluation Unit (CEEU), which reports to the Minister for Public Sector Reform.
“The ongoing uncertainty and possibility of further attacks on schemes which have already been cut is doing untold damage to the confidence of the one sector that is consistently growing exports. The reality is that the closing of REPS, the two cuts to the DA scheme and the halving of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme rate means that many farmers, particularly low-income farmers in the cattle and sheep sectors, are very vulnerable. Any further cuts could completely devastate the potential for expansion in the suckler herd or sheep flock. There certainly won’t be any expansion in beef exports as envisaged in the Food Harvest report if we continue to slash and burn the productive basis for quality beef.”
He also pointed out that the Disadvantaged Area Scheme is co-funded by the EU. “It makes no sense to forego co-funding which is what is implied here. Equally importantly, we should not be decimating farm programmes given that there is a reform of the CAP underway and we need to make a credible case for further EU funding under Pillar 2 of the CAP which covers Rural Development to cover the 2014-2019 period.”
Mr Gilmartin added that the Government needs to face up to home truths at this stage. “We cannot achieve the savings required by continuously cutting vital schemes. The government cannot wipe out vital schemes while continuing to pay public sector pensions in excess of €50,000 per annum. It is also patently unjust that the Government continues to promise that it will honour the Croke Park deal for one sector while imposing horrendous cuts on other sectors. Surely, no government would choose to end the school transport scheme for rural students while offering six-figure pay-offs to elite politicians and public servants who opt for early retirement?”