30 July 2009 Edition
Doherty calls on government to reopen REPS
“The challenges facing the farming sector continue to be ignored by this government. Decades of underinvestment in critical infrastructure and services and the failure of government run state agencies to develop Ireland’s indigenous agri-sector and export market has resulted in the steady decline in farming with the overall number of farms falling from 228,000 in 1975 to 128,000 in 2006. The decline of small farms has been particularly marked and government policy has failed to address the reasons why.
“Fianna Fáil’s decision to withdraw REPS with the support of the Green’s is more of the same. The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme is an important state investment. It enables farmers to establish farming practices and production methods that are environmentally sound and helps to ensure that quality food is produced in an environmentally friendly manner. It is what it says on the tin. Yet rather than see it as an investment in the farming sector, the environment and Ireland’s agri-food sector Fianna Fáil Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith’s sees it merely as a scheme that ‘is now oversubscribed’ to.
“Rural Ireland deserves better than Fianna Fáil’s short term decision making and its refusal to invest for the long haul. The farming community must ensure its voice continues to be heard and that pressure remains on representative organisations to continue to fight against the imposition of such measures. Public finance efficiencies and reforms must be made but Fianna Fáil and the Green’s cannot treat this process as a mere book keeping exercise that makes short term gains but at the cost of a sustainable future for rural Ireland.
“Earlier this year Sinn Féin published a public finance document that could save the exchequer nearly 5 billion euro in a 12 month period. Sinn Féin’s measures are fair and unlike the government does not target the low paid, the vulnerable, working families or rural Ireland. Sinn Féin understands the challenges facing rural Ireland and we are committed to ensuring a future for the people living and working there.”