Dáil Éireann - Volume 569 - 25 June, 2003

Written Answers. - Rural Development.

  122. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has undertaken an assessment of the implications for rural development of the current mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17763/03]

  Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food. He agrees with the broad thrust of the Commission's proposals under the mid-term review of Agenda 2000, in so far as rural development is concerned, which is to extend the range of on-farm rural development measures to promote food quality, meet higher standards and foster animal welfare. However, the Commission is also proposing to introduce a system of modulation, which would reduce direct payments to farmers receiving over €5,000 a year to provide additional funds for such rural development. There is an intrinsic contradiction in this proposal to reduce farmers incomes, which will be damaging the economies of rural areas in order to provide funds for certain rural development measures. My colleague has made his overall opposition to the proposals clear in the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers and his objective in the negotiations is to preserve the benefits to Irish agriculture and to rural communities achieved under the Agenda 2000 agreement.

[886]   The Minister for Agriculture and Food continues to keep me apprised of the progress of the negotiations.

  As I have indicated, “rural development” in the context of the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy is farm-related, and not wider rural development as is generally understood here.

  In relation to the rural development programmes for which I have responsibility, principally Leader, the outcome of the Common Agricultural Policy negotiations will not affect existing financial commitments under the national development plan.

  However, my Department will be working closely with the Department of Agriculture and Food in the coming period to ensure that appropriate rural development policies are pursued, so that the effects of any changes in farm related policies do not impact negatively on rural development generally.