Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, and Chair of the Fine Gael Committee on Agriculture, Martin Heydon, says that we must not let Fianna Fáil wreck the farming and agri-food sectors again.

“After the economic devastation Fianna Fáil wreaked upon rural Ireland, a recovery is slowly taking hold. Agriculture and the agri-food sectors are beginning to thrive and now offer sustainable careers for people right across the country.

“This is in stark contrast to what Fianna Fáil did to Irish agriculture when they were in office. They shut down the Irish sugar industry with their plan to convert once-thriving sugar factories into housing estates. Average farm incomes fell by 40% during the last three years that Fianna Fáil were in government. In 2009 and 2010, under Fianna Fáil, employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing fell by almost 21,000, the second largest decrease in any sector.

“Fine Gael in Government has identified agriculture and agri-food as a key engine of economic growth. We have focused on opening up new markets for exports and working with farmers and producers to create new opportunities.

“Under our EU Presidency in 2013 we helped to negotiate a new Common Agriculture Programme provides €12.5 billion to Irish farmers and includes changes to the single farm payment scheme with approximately 60,000 farmers receiving an increase in farm payments, benefitting the lowest paid.

“We have made farming more accessible through the most comprehensive reform of agri-taxation measures, to attract younger farmers and assist with the transfer of land. This year we began the rollout of a €4 billion Rural Development Programme, supporting rural communities.

“Fine Gael in Government has overseen a 40% increase in food and beverage exports since 2009 supporting 170,000 jobs. The abolition of milk quotas offers significant potential for increased production and 15,000 jobs over 5 years, although some concerns about price remain.

“The Food Wise 2025 strategy, launched by Minister Simon Coveney is a ten year vision to grow the agri-food sector targeting an 85% increase in the value of exports to €19 billion and an additional 23,000 jobs.

“Fianna Fáil’s answer to challenging times for Irish agriculture was free cheese. Fine Gael is standing up for rural Ireland. We’re determined to spread the recovery throughout Ireland. Agri-food is thriving, tourism is rebounding strongly and we’re supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs. Fine Gael sees the agriculture sector as a priority for our plan to spread the recovery to every corner of the country.”