‘€1.8bn for agriculture’

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D, has announced details of his Department’s 2021 Budget. The 2021 Estimates provide a gross Vote of €1.826 billion for the Department. This is €179 million more than the gross funding provided in Budget 2020 and is a 11% increase on the allocation in Budget 2020.

The Minister said: “The backdrop to this year’s budget is unprecedented. Apart from the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid, it comes at a time of transition between the current Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2014-2020, and the new one.

“My priority was to ensure that this transition did not result in any gap in funding for farmers. I wanted to maintain supports for vulnerable sectors, without losing focus on the strategic development of agriculture and food. I also wanted to lay the foundations for a major new Agri Environment Scheme to support farm incomes and incentivise climate and environmental action into the future. I am pleased that all of these key objectives have been achieved, while providing significantly increased support for sectors such as horticulture and organics, and in areas such as strategic research and innovation, marketing and promotion, and investment in the sea fisheries sector”.

Referring specifically to the challenge of Brexit, the Minister said: “With an additional €39 million provided for staff and infrastructure this year, my Department will in in a position to fulfil its expanded control obligations at ports and airports to facilitate trade in agri food products following the end of the Brexit Transition period. I am also extremely conscious of the negative impact of a no deal scenario on the agri food and fisheries sectors. I am pleased that the Government has set aside a €3.4 billion recovery fund to support sectors, including the agri-food and fisheries sectors, particularly affected by a no deal Brexit and Covid-2019”.

Minister McConalogue highlighted a number of key provisions in his Department’s estimate for 2021. He stated: “I am providing some €79 million in new funding for a number of pilot measures in the agri environment area. This is a very significant step. This funding will contribute to the development of a pilot scheme to encourage environmental action from farmers who are not currently in GLAS, and a number of pilot environmental actions that will be available to farmers on a broader basis. I expect these pilot actions to inform the development of a major new environmental scheme for agriculture following on from the GLAS scheme. I am extremely conscious of the pressures on the tillage sector this year, and will be ring fencing some €10 million of this sum specifically for that sector. This funding will also contribute to the development of new initiatives on farm safety.

“Beef and sheep farming is the lifeblood of many rural communities. This Budget provides €102 million in targeted supports for livestock farming. I am providing more than €85 million to support sustainable beef farming. This includes over €40 million for the extension of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme during the transition period. It also includes €40 million for the Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot, based on the BEEP-S Scheme, as well as providing an additional €5 million for a new calf weighing measure to support beef farmers rearing dairy calves. I am also providing €17 million for the extension of the Sheep Welfare Scheme”.