The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon, T.D. has welcomed Budget 2021, and in particular the allocations in his areas of responsibility, market development, farm safety and innovation.
“My focus in this Budget has been to direct supports towards tackling the challenges of Brexit, climate change and farm safety . With the threat of Brexit hanging over everything, it provides the funding to enable us to further invest in the State agencies which support our agri-food industry, while also delivering for farm safety, and allowing for extensive research into how we can best meet the challenges of biodiversity and the Farm to Fork strategy”.
Outlining the significance of food and beverage exports to the economy, Minister Heydon said:
“Food and beverage exports are worth €14 billon annually. They are a key driver of our agri-sector and underpin our wider rural economy. However further and future success will depend on delivering premium markets, in which we can build on our reputation for innovation, food safety and sustainability measures. That is why I am so pleased to see the allocations in my areas’ key state agencies.”
The Minister announced that the additional €4m for Bord Bia, would bring its total grant to €52.25m. Confirming that his Department and Bord Bia will engage in new market development using innovative digital and online approaches, he said:
‘We must continue to invest in establishing a premium position for our food and beverages in all markets, across the world as well as in the UK and Europe. To that end my Department is working with Bord Bia to lead a series of virtual trade missions with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand during November. We are only too aware that we cannot currently travel to meet potential buyers, but that extra allocation to Bord Bia will ensure that we can continue to focus on gaining new market access for our key exports, as well as enhancing and retaining access to existing international markets”.
The Minister also announced an increased allocation to Teagasc, the state agency providing research, advisory and education in agriculture, horticulture, food and rural development in Ireland:
‘The extra €4m for Teagasc will enable it develop and roll-out research to ensure that our farmers are ready to answer the challenges of tomorrow’s food markets. This brings the total support to Teagasc to €147m in 2021.
Emphasising the importance of research, Minister Heydon also announced an increased allocation of €3.2m for the Department’s competitive research funding programmes in 2021.
‘If we are going to continue to deliver efficiency and sustainability in the years ahead, innovation will be critical. This added investment, which brings our research funding to over €18 million will allow us to future proof our industry and develop key solutions to meeting the ambitions of the Farm to Fork Strategy, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
The Minister also pointed out that the combined investment in Research and Innovation by the Department, Teagasc and the Marine Institute is now over €30m annually.
Highlighting the fact that he is the first Government Minister with specific responsibility for Farm Safety, Minister Heydon said the generous budget allocation in this area underlined this Government’s commitment to protecting farmers.
‘I want to put safety at the heart of our farms and I want farmers to be centrally involved in how we do that. That is why I intend to launch a call under the Innovation Partnership model (EIP’s) specifically related to farm safety. This will see the provision of €1m in funding supporting a competitive, ‘locally-led’ call for farm safety initiatives.
The Minister also announced a major initiative which will see over 50,000 farmers access farm safety training.
This programme, which will also incorporate biodiversity training will be of huge benefit’ he said, “and it will build on the over 14,600 farmers who have already received farm safety training as part of the application for support under TAMS.”
Announcing further provision of funding of €80m under TAMS which will also allow the delivery of commitments made under the scheme, including for specific farm safety measures such as external agitation points for slurry tanks, sliding doors, handling equipment as well as rewiring and safety cages, the Minister said:
Our farms and farmyards are working environments and we must work together to make them safer. This will happen only by changing behaviours, increasing awareness, training and investment in key farm safety measures’.
Finally, Minister Heydon welcomed the additional funding of €12m to assist the State bodies dealing with the horse and greyhound sectors which are facing difficulties during the Covid outbreak; this funding is targeted at protecting welfare and employment in vulnerable areas. Horse Sport Ireland has also been allocated €5m to assist with the strategic development of that sector, in areas such as research, breeding and identification, an increase of 25% on last year.
“The allocations in Market Development, Research and Farm Safety together with the other Departmental measures will help to address challenges arising from Brexit, Climate Change and Farm Safety for the farming community in 2021” concluded Minister Heydon.