Éamon Ó Cuív TD has spoken to That’s Farming about the hugely disappointing under-spend that seems to be happening within the Department of Agriculture.
Éamon says that there is an under-spend of approximately €50 million across three schemes within the Rural Development Programme (RDP).
The under-spend is growing, according to Ó Cuív, and it will stay this way unless the government is to reopen some schemes. The genomics scheme would have to have more applicants accepted, GLAS would have to increase the €5,000 maximum payment, and capital expenditure would have to have been sped up in its roll-out for the money to be successfully spent.
None of these things are set to happen in the foreseeable future, which means an approximate €50 million will go to the Exchequer, says Ó Cuív. The Department is spending the full EU funding for schemes, but it’s the excess money from within the department that is not being used.
“They have only spent 20% of what they projected last year. All of the delays have consequences,” explains Ó Cuív.
“I predicted it from the beginning. I kept saying to Minister Coveney at the time that GLAS would under-spend if the average payment was €5,000. [The Department] began to obfuscate and they claimed they knew better than I did.”
Ó Cuív said that he did up the figures and knew straight away that there would be money left over:
“Because it’s a five year cycle, there will be applicants in 2017 who will not get their full payments by 2020, since it’s a rate of €5,000 per payment. They’ll get paid in 2021, but the funding for that will be from the new cycle. This means there will be GLAS funding not paid out.”
The department, according to the TD, has refused to have a meaningful point-by-point debate on the issue.
“They were never willing to engage on this,” says Ó Cuív.
The only way that this under-spend can be avoided, says Éamon, is if ANC payments are dramatically increased:
“It’s the only simple way of ensuring a full spend. It’s something they can do instantaneously because it doesn’t have to be approved by Brussels,” he suggests.