The fundamental changes to the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme will result in the most vulnerable farmers in the North West suffering severe cuts to State supports, according to Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill.
Senator Ó Domhnaill has hit out at the Government for once again targeting the most disadvantaged for the bulk of Budget cutbacks this year. Under measures announced in last month’s Budget, 7,877 Donegal farmers could potentially have their payments under DAS either cancelled or radically reduced.
The Donegal Senator has appealed to the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to reconsider his moves to completely undermine DAS and REPS 4.
“Minister Coveney has cut €30 million from the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme this year,” said Senator Ó Domhnaill. “The changes in minimum stocking requirements could prevent thousands of farmers from qualifying for the same DAS payments they got last year. For instance, farmers on mountain grazing land are prevented from increasing their livestock under commonage framework plans. How can they be expected to meet the increased livestock requirements to qualify for the payments they need?
“Minister Coveney has also sought to restrict the amount of land that can qualify for DAS. Under the current system, a farmer with part of their lands on Disadvantaged Areas and part that’s not gets a DAS payment based on their full holding. Under Budget changes introduced last month, this is no longer the case. Only that proportion of the disadvantaged land will qualify. For example, a farmer with 60ha in total and 20ha Disadvantaged will see a reduction of 66% in their Disadvantaged Areas payment this year compared to last year.
“It is unfair for the Government to target more vulnerable and smaller farmers in this way. I have submitted alternative suggestions to the Minister that would protect smaller farmers who are in the DAS and REPS schemes. I am appealing to him to take another look at my suggestions and avoid drastic cuts to the most at risk farmers.”