Irish Rural Development Programme 2007-2013

Introduction

The National Rural Network is a component of the Rural Development Programme for Ireland 2007-2013 (RDP) (PDF Document) which was approved by the European Commission in July 2007 and is based on the EU funding framework for Agriculture and Rural Development. This European-wide framework, which is called the EARDF (European Agriculture and Rural Development Fund), requires each country to submit a rural development strategy which they subsequently translate into a practical programme with measures, funding allocations, targets and mechanisms for delivery. The EU funds differing proportions towards different measures, so from a total programme budget of €5.8 Billion the EU is contributing just over 40%.  Diagram 1, which is based on the EARDF guidelines, illustrates the framework.

The four axes refer to headings under which measures or activities are grouped. Axes 1, 2, and 3 reflect strategic objectives at both EU and National levels, competitiveness, Environment & Land Management and rural Economic Diversification & Quality of Life respectively.  They are informed closely by the EU Lisbon Agenda on competitiveness and the Gothenburg Agenda on Sustainability, as well as declarations and policy statements on rural development. The National strategy and programme are closely linked to objectives within the National Development Plan and takes account of the Agri- vision 2015 Action Plan (PDF Document) as well as other policies on Agriculture, Sustainability and Rural Development here in Ireland. As can be seen from the diagram there are common features across the framework relating to funding mechanisms and rules, evaluation criteria, management systems and a common networking forum, the National Rural Network. In Ireland the Network Rural Network will be provided by the Rural Development Support Unit (RDSU) based in Tipperary Institute.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – as the managing authority – and the RDP Monitoring Committee will have responsibility for the monitoring and evaluation of the Programme. This process will take account of the EU common monitoring and evaluation framework (CMEF). On-going monitoring and evaluation work will be carried out by the implementing Departments – Agriculture, Fisheries & Food and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Its scope and nature will be determined by the CMEF requirements and the deliberations of the Monitoring Committee. An annual Report must be made to the EU Commission for the duration of the Programme and in addition independent evaluations must be carried out midway through the programme and following its completion.

EARDF Framework

Diagram 1: EARDF Framework

Axis 1: Competitiveness

The first Axis of the RDP is aimed at improving the competitiveness of farm enterprises through support for restructuring, development and innovation. Measures under this Axis have the objective of promoting structural change at farm level and include support for training, installation aid for young farmers, early retirement and modernisation of agricultural holdings through on farm investment.

Vocational training and information actions

There are three specific objectives under this measure two of which relate to providing participant farmers with information and skills related to agriculture and the environment, the other seeks to keep farmers informed regarding all relevant measure requirements at farm level.

  • To provide participants with information on environmental benefits arising from the Agri-Environment and Natura 2000 Measures.
  • To provide participants with clarification on all relevant measure requirements at individual farm level.
  • To equip farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement comprehensive environmental actions.

Under this measure, beneficiaries under the Axis 2 Agri-Environment and Natura 2000 measures will be required to attend approved education courses. Those beneficiaries who have not attended a training course in the 2000-06 programming period will be obliged to attend an appreciation training module. Additionally all beneficiaries will be encouraged to attend further one day training/demonstration modules in years one and two of the five year Natura 2000 or Agri-Environment contract.

Further information:  Contact REPS Division, Johnstown Castle, Wexford. Tel. 053-9163400

Setting-up of young farmers (Young Farmers’ Installation Scheme)

The objectives of this measure are primarily related to enabling young farmers take over land holdings and to support them in getting established in farming.

  • to achieve the transfer of land to young trained farmers who are able to meet the new challenges facing Irish agriculture
  • to offset the set-up costs faced by young people when establishing themselves in farming
  • To provide assistance for the investments required on such holdings.

A Business Plan is required from each applicant. In addition, participants are required to continue farming for five years from the date of set-up and to farm the land transferred or its equivalent during that period. Applicants must be between the age of 18 and 35 at the time of setting-up in farming for the first time; the date of setting-up must be on or after 1 January 2007 and not later than 31 December 2013. Applicants will be subject to compliance with off-farm income ceilings. Applicants must be set-up on at least 20 ha (non less favoured area) or 15 ha (less favoured area) for a minimum period of seven years and be an applicant for a herd number or other Department identifier. The minimum land area does not apply to certain intensive enterprises. Time limits will apply to applications and to completion of the development options set out in the Business Plan. Applicants will be required to complete occupational skills and competence requirements within two years from date of set-up. Eligible applicants will also be able to apply for investment grants under the farm modernisation measure.

For further information contact On Farm Investment Section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford. Tel. 053-9163400

Early retirement of farmers and farm workers

The objectives of this measure are to complement the Setting up of Young Farmers measure by encouraging the transfer of holdings from older farmers to younger trained farmers setting up in farming under the measure at Paragraph 3.2 and to reassign land from retiring farmers to established farmers who wish to enlarge their holdings. The scheme will encompass the payment of an annual pension to eligible applicants for a maximum period of 10 years. There are a range od eligibility criteria and conditions associated with this measure which can be accessed through the department site.

For further information contact Early Retirement Section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Tel. 053-9163400.

Farm Modernisation (Farm Improvement Scheme)

The objective of this measure is to ensure that the agriculture sector in Ireland becomes more competitive and market-oriented. It aims to promote diversification of activities, higher standards of animal welfare and health and safety on Irish farms. It also aims to ensure higher environmental standards on Irish farms and reduce overall greenhouse and trans-boundary gas emissions from the agriculture sector. Unless covered by another specific exchequer funded measure in the NDP, farmers in all farming sectors will be eligible to participate regardless of the level of farm income. All eligible farmers will be subject to compliance with minimum educational requirements or farming experience.

For further information contact On Farm investment Section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford. Tel. 053-9163400

Axis 2: Improving the environment and the countryside

The second Axis of the RDP is directed at preserving and, where possible, enhancing the environment, biodiversity and the amenity value of the countryside. 80% of expenditure under the RDP comes within this Axis which provides for compensatory payments to farmers who farm in Less Favoured Areas, Natura 2000 payments in respect of designated Special Areas of Conservation/Special Protection Areas and agri-environment payments under the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS).

Payment to farmers in areas with handicaps other than mountain areas

The scheme will provide support for farmers in Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) to compensate for additional costs and income foregone related to maintaining agricultural production in these areas. The Scheme applies to currently designated LFAs and these designations will apply until at least 2010.

Levels of payment will generally be based on eligible forage area declared in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS).

Applicants will be required to:

Applicants must also:

Payment will also be made in respect of land under energy crops subject to the following conditions:

For further information contact Single Payment Unit, Old Abbeyleix Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Tel. (057) 8674400.

Natura 2000 payments and payment linked to Directive 2000/60/EC

The aim of this measure is to contribute to positive environmental management of farmed Natura 2000 sites and river catchments in the implementation of the Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive. The beneficiaries of this measure are farmers actively farming designated Natura 2000 sites and its main purpose is to compensate farmers with utilisable agricultural land in these sites for the mandatory restrictions related to the designation. A minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per hectare is required as a condition of eligibility.

Natura is classified into two land types in Ireland:

1 Privately owned land with SAC and/or SPA designation

The rationale for this measure is to provide a comprehensive approach to the conservation of privately owned designated Natura 2000 sites. Participants in this measure

To ensure a uniform approach in the delivery of the Natura element of farm plans giving effect to the restrictions on notifiable actions, farming conditions for the following habitat types have been developed and must be complied with:

For other habitat types in designated areas for which specific farming conditions have not yet been developed, the planner must contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for instructions on any conditions appropriate to the site, and must incorporate any such conditions into the Natura element of the farm plan. If specified conditions have not yet been determined by NPWS for specific habitat types, the planner must set down appropriate environmental conditions in the individual farm plan in consultation with the environmentalist.

2 Lands farmed in Common (Commonage land) with SAC and /or SPA designation

The main aim of this measure is to provide a comprehensive approach to the conservation and/or regeneration of designated commonage land. Payments under this measure compensate for the mandatory requirements placed on the farmer as a result of the Natura designation, i.e. compliance with the application of the terms of the Commonage Framework Plan to his/her holding. On Natura commonage full compliance with the terms of the Commonage framework Plan is mandatory. Under the Natura measure, the farmer must engage both an approved planner and an environmentalist in the preparation of a farm plan for Natura 2000 commonage.

Approximately 60% of commonage land is designated under Natura 2000 and is subject to mandatory Natura 2000 restrictions on notifiable actions.

Eligibility for payment will normally (exceptions in the case of inheritance, setting up young farmers and transferees under the Early Retirement Scheme) be restricted to commonage shares declared on IACS in the five years preceding the date of the REPS application.

In addition to abiding by the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) requirement to implement the reduced stocking requirement set out in the relevant Commonage Framework Plan, farmers must implement sustainable farming practices prepared by the approved planner and environmentalist which contribute to the maintenance of the habitat and the avoidance of land abandonment. Participants are required to have an integrated farm plan embracing Natura 2000 and agri-environment requirements on the non-designated area of the farm.

To ensure a uniform approach in the delivery of the Natura element of farm plans giving effect to the notifiable actions, farming conditions for the following habitat types on commonages have been developed and must be complied with:

For further information contact REPS Division, Johnstown Castle, Wexford. Tel. 053-9163400

Agri-Environment Payments

The main objectives of the agri-environment measures are:

  • To promote
    • ways of using agricultural land which are compatible with the protection and improvement of the environment, biodiversity, the landscape and its features, climate change, natural resources, water quality, the soil and genetic diversity
    • environmentally-favourable farming systems
    • the conservation of high nature-value farmed environments which are under threat
    • the upkeep of historical features on agricultural land
    • the use of environmental planning in farming practice
  • To protect against land abandonment
  • To sustain the social fabric in rural communities
  • To promote conversion to organic production standards

Under this measure farmers will be obliged to carry out their farming activity in accordance with farming conditions relevant to land classification for a minimum period of five years.

All general programme scheme participants will be obliged to have a farm nutrient management plan prepared by a qualified planner approved by the Department. If the participant has obtained a derogation from the national Regulations implementing the Nitrates Directive, the REPS nutrient management plan must be prepared in accordance with the derogation and will be acceptable for such a period as the derogation remains in force.

A General Programme for all applicants will consist of

General Programme participants must apply eleven core measures in respect of the total area of their holding for a five-year period together with at least two additional undertakings to be selected from listed biodiversity options. Individual farm plans must be drawn up by professionally qualified planners approved by the Department.

For further information contact REPS Division or the Organics Section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Tel. 053-9163400

Axis 3: The quality of life in rural areas and diversification of the rural economy

All measures contained in Axis 3 will be delivered through the Leader approach.

Diversification Into Non-Agricultural Activities

The objective of this measure is to significantly increase the percentage of holdings where the fixed assets of the farm are utilised in any non-agricultural activity by a member of the farm household for economic gain.
While the scope of the measure encompasses all non-agricultural activities, common actions will include:

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Support For Business Creation And Development

The objective of this measure is to position rural areas to provide economic activity of sufficient mass to attract people to live and work in those areas.

It is a requirement under this measure that a sectoral agreement exists between the Local Action Group and the relevant County Enterprise Board. This can, where appropriate and by mutual consent, be a continuation of the agreement in place under the Leader programme 2000 – 2006

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Encouragement Of Tourism Activities

The main objective of this measure is to promote the sustainable, regionally balanced, tourism potential of all rural areas through the provision of necessary infrastructure and the development of the countryside as a recreational resource for all. The following are eligible for funding.

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Basic Services For The Economy And Rural Population

The main objective of this measure is to identify and provide appropriate cultural and leisure facilities to local communities, not otherwise available to them.
Initiatives will broadly address the provision of:

All assessments and actions should be carried out in consultation and with the agreement of the appropriate local authorities. Any equipment, activities or infrastructure provided must be available and accessible to all age and social groups in the community concerned. Mainstream activities of sports organisations and bodies are excluded from support under this measure.

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Village Renewal And Development

The main objective of this measure is to provide appropriate supports to enhance the economic and social attractiveness of villages, small towns and the surrounding countryside. The following measure will be eligible for funding:

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Conservation And Upgrading Of The Rural Heritage

The main objective of this measure is to provide an integrated approach for the protection of the local heritage through a number of related preservation actions, complemented by a range of initiatives designed to develop the sustainable economic contribution of the natural heritage. The following are eligible for funding under this measure:

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

A Training And Information Measure For Economic Actors Operating In The Fields Covered By Axis 3

The main objective of this measure is to equip rural dwellers and communities with the appropriate range of skills and training to derive maximum social and economic benefit from the initiatives available under this Axis. The following are eligible for funding under this measure:

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Axis 4:  Implementation of the LEADER approach

A Skills-Acquisition And Animation Measure With A View To Preparing And Implementing A Local Development Strategy

The main objective of this measure is to utilise the bottom-up structures of the Leader methodology to create awareness, understanding and motivation in rural communities so as to enable their full participation and input into the preparation of local development strategies. The following are eligible for funding under this measure:

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Implementing Local Development Strategies

The main objective of this measure is to deliver integrated value-added measures in the whole of the rural territory across Axis 3.
The selection process for Local Action groups, including a call for proposals, submission of applications with business plan, evaluation and final selection of groups will take place in time to facilitate timely implementation of the programme.
Procedures to select groups will be open to all rural areas, all existing groups and partnerships developed through the Cohesion process currently underway.

Selection criteria will include:

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Implementing Co-Operation Projects

Transnational and inter-territorial co-operation will be supported under this measure. Cooperation is allowable between Leader groups and other non-Leader groups provided the project involved is led and co-ordinated by a Leader group. Support will be available for projects falling under Axis 3 and also for innovative and experimental approaches to promoting joint ventures addressing common issues. In this context, preparatory activity, co-ordination and animation are eligible for funding. While joint actions may involve groups from third countries, only activities taking place within the EU are eligible for funding. All cross-border projects involving LAGs from Northern Ireland must be submitted to the relevant Managing Authority and endorsed by the Cross Border Steering Group for Rural Development.

Procedure, timetable and objective criteria to select inter-territorial and transnational cooperation projects
The co-operation methodology must be integrated in the business plans of LAGs at the outset of the programme. The selection and approval of projects must be carried out to the same extent as for other projects i.e. through the project evaluation committee process. The value-added benefit of all projects must be clearly demonstrated and transparent. To underline the importance of co-operation, each LAG must reserve a minimum of 3% of its annual public funding allocation for this measure.

For further information contact Rural Development II, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Teeling Street, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, telephone (07191) 86700.

Running The Local Action Group, Acquiring Skills And Animating The Territory

The main objective of this measure is to provide Local Action Groups with sufficient resources and expertise to efficiently administer all measures under Axis 3 and 4 throughout all of the rural territory. The administration budget for each Local Action Group is set at a maximum of 20% of public funding, at programme and group level.