Rural development to benefit from multi-billion euro recovery plan

Rural development is set for a funding boost as part of the EU’s Economic Recovery Plan, with up to €1.5bn to be targeted at things like investment in broadband, training and environmental improvement.


The dairy sector is also likely to benefit, as the EU Commission seeks to lend more support to producers hit by the sudden downturn in global dairy markets.


Addressing this week’s farm council in Brussels, EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said she would come out with a formal proposal next week.


But, with the additional funding due to rural development from higher modulation under the recent CAP “health check” not likely to flow until 2010, she was keen to move quicker.


Under the Economic Recovery Plan, agreed by heads of state in December, €30bn of EU taxpayer money is to be made available for a wide range of sectors to stimulate growth and development.


A chunk of this money – about €5bn – is due to come from unspent CAP funds in 2008 and 2009, saved from things like unclaimed direct payments and unused market intervention.


But some of this – about €1.5bn – is to be recycled within the farming sector, targeted at the “new challenges” of rural development, including climate change, biodiversity, renewable energy and water management.


Some of the funding may also be used to support the beleaguered dairy sector.


“My main concern in the dairy sector is the small and vulnerable dairy producers located in mountainous regions,” Mrs Fischer Boel told a press conference after the council meeting.


“If they are forced out of the market by the low price of milk, they will sell their animals and will not start up again. This could have negative implications for the environment, because animal production is crucial for these regions.


“We shall, therefore, give them a chance to stay in business.”