Very significant levels of funding have been provided in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for the support of agriculture and rural development. In total, some £6.7 billion is committed to programmes and measures which directly impact on rural areas. Specifically in so far as agriculture is concerned, some £3.4 billion is being made available in the period to 2006. This level of funding will allow for a major increase in participation in the REP scheme which already involves over 45,000 farmers and for further improvement in farm structures through continuation of the early retirement scheme, an increased installation aid payment of £7,500 and the introduction of a new development programme for young farmers.
Substantial funding will be available for improved on-farm investment measures including schemes of farm waste management and improvement in dairy hygiene standards. These measures will be open to farmers with a minimum of 15 income units from farming and a maximum of 200 income units, including off-farm income. The schemes will, therefore, be open to an increased number of part-time farmers and should contribute to securing household viability on many of our smaller and medium-sized farms. In addition the very significant levels of direct payment provide a major support to farm incomes.