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Representation in Ireland

Agriculture and rural development in Ireland

Before Ireland became a member of the European Union it was almost totally economically dependent on farming, but the country now has a more diverse, open economy.

However, farming still has a vital role to play in Ireland’s economic prospects and today it is facing real threats from climate change, rising energy costs, food insecurity and rural decline, as well as uncertainty caused by war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

Being part of the European Union means Irish farmers and rural communities aren’t facing these issues alone as Ireland co-ordinates with the other EU Member States through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to find solutions to global, as well as local, issues.

EU agricultural policy focus

First introduced in Europe in 1962, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a common policy for all EU countries. It is regularly updated to ensure farmers can make a reasonable living and to tackle evolving threats to agriculture, rural living and the environment.

I believe there is great potential in Ireland, and the European Union as a whole, to become leaders in sustainable food production, and for our farmers to reap the benefits.

Janusz Wojciechowski, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner for Agriculture

EU countries will implement the new CAP from January 2023 through their own national strategic plans, which need to be approved by the Commission.

The plans allow each Member State to address its own needs while also delivering tangible results in relation to ten EU-level CAP objectives.

Ireland’s proposed strategic plan has a budget of just under €10 billion for the 2023-27 period, with about 60 percent allocated to direct income support and 40 percent to rural development measures.

The new CAP prioritises small and medium-sized farms, encourages young farmers to join the profession and focuses on better rural development.

Currently less than 7% of Irish farmers are under the age of 35. The CAP, together with funding incentives and research, aims to boost that figure and help new generations of farmers with proposals such as:

  • increased mentoring and knowledge transfer
  • more flexibility on taxation and inheritance rules
  • easier access to loans with lower interest rates and longer repayment periods

60 Years of CAP

The CAP policy 2023-27

Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan

Factsheet: Overview of agricultural and rural development in Ireland

Rural development

The CAP is not only about looking forward; it is also designed to protect what we already have. Preservation of Ireland’s famously beautiful countryside is assisted through the CAP’s Rural Development Programmes (RDPs).

Rural areas are the fabric of our society and the heartbeat of our economy. They are a core part of our identity and our economic potential. We will cherish and preserve our rural areas and invest in their future.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

LEADER is the mechanism that delivers development to local rural communities and it is administered by Local Action Groups (LAGs), which are partnerships of both public and private bodies that select and approve projects in their respective areas.

The overall programme funding in Ireland is allocated to 28 sub-regional areas, based on administrative or county boundaries.

Under the new CAP, rural development measures will be included in the national CAP strategic plans from 2023 onwards.

The European Commission has set out a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas up to 2040 and is working with stakeholders on a Rural Pact and an EU Rural Action Plan aimed at developing stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural communities.

Rural Development in Ireland

Department of Rural and Community Development: Rural funding

Long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas

Factsheet: Ireland’s 2014-20 rural development programme

Investment and innovation for sustainable agriculture

Investment in the future of Irish agriculture is supported through the Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy.

The EU has also created the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) to ensure that research responds to ground-level needs of farmers and foresters.

Horizon Europe – opportunities for agriculture

European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability

EU strategies for food and biodiversity

The European Commission has adopted two new strategies that will help the CAP deliver on European Green Deal ambitions.

Support for farmers during the war in Ukraine

The European Commission acts swiftly in times of crisis such as the global financial crisis that erupted in late 2008, the Covid-19 pandemic and most recently, the war in Ukraine.

A surge in global commodity prices during the first half of 2022 that was accelerated by Russia's invasion saw the Commission respond with a range of actions to support EU farmers and food security for consumers.

While the EU itself does not face a food security risk, we should still address food affordability issues and take steps to make our agriculture and food supply chains more resilient and sustainable to cope with future crises.

Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis
Valdis Dombrovskis,  Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of an Economy that works for People, and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis

The Commission adopted a number of measures including a support package of €500 million to support farmers and producers most affected by the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

A Temporary Crisis Framework to enable Member States to use the flexibility of State Aid rules to support their economies following Russia's invasion of Ukraine was also adopted by the Commission in March 2022.

A European Food Security Crisis preparedness and response Mechanism (EFSCM), set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, maps out risks to the EU food supply chain and coordinates the response to threats such as those caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During times of crisis, Member States can draw from EU funds such as the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), which supports actions to provide food or basic material assistance to the most vulnerable.

Factsheet on measures to safeguard food security and support EU farmers

Temporary Crisis Framework

Ensuring global food supply and security

EU actions to enhance global food security

Q&A: Safeguarding global food security and support EU farmers and consumers

Irish agriculture: facts and figures

  • Employment in the Irish agri-food sector accounted for approximately over 163,600 people or 7.1% of total employment in 2020.
  • Ireland exports the vast majority of its agricultural products. They accounted for 8.8% of the country’s total merchandising exports in 2020.
  • The value of Ireland’s agri-food exports for 2020 totalled €14.2 billion.
  • In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, farm incomes in Ireland increased by 9% in 2020 to €25,615 according to Teagasc’s National Farm Survey for the year.
  • Teagasc’s National Farm Survey results found that 33.8% of Irish farms surveyed were classified as viable in 2020. A further 33.4% were classified as sustainable, mainly due to off-farm income, while the remaining 32.8% were deemed economically vulnerable.

Latest agriculture news

News article |

The European Commission has proposed an exceptional measure funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to allow Member States pay a one-off lump sum to farmers & agri-food businesses affected by significant increases in input costs.