IFA Slams Closure Of Subsidy Applications

Up to 50% of the income of many drystock farmers "will be wiped out", a major farmers' union has claimed today.

Irish Farmers Association President Padraig Walshe described the Government's latest decision to close the "REPS 4" subsidy scheme for new applicants as a "devastating blow for up to 34,000 farmers". Mr Walshe also censured a number of decisions to cut agricultural spending from last year's levels.

He criticised Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith for closing applications to the subsidy, which is used to fund farm building projects and restorations, saying the Minister must immediately come forward with a new meaningful scheme for the farmers.

"If Minister Smith proceeds with these cuts in 2010 up to 50% of the income of many drystock farmers will be wiped out. The previous budget cuts plus this proposed cut will hit the hard pressed livestock sector especially hard."

The response comes just as Minister Smith announced the closure of applications along with proposals for spending €207 million in EU funding for Irish farmers over the next four years.

Minister Smith described REPS as a successful scheme, which up to and including this year had contributed over €3 billion to tens of thousands of Irish farmers.

But announcing the subsidy's controversial closure the Minister said: "In view of the current budgetary situation and the increase over the past year from 46,694 to approximately 62,000 in the number of REPS’ participants, it has been decided to close REPS 4 to all new applicants, as well as those completing their current five-year REPS contracts.

"This decision is necessary in order to keep REPS within its budgetary allocation over the coming years."

However, the Minister did confirm that payments would continue to farmers within REPS and several hundred million will continue to be paid to current participants until the end of their existing five-year contracts.

Despite the Minister's assurances, Mr Walshe said farmers were outraged at the decision at a time when farm incomes are at their lowest level in almost a decade and tens of thousands of farm families were struggling to survive.


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