Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme for which my Department has responsibility aims to improve the quality of life in rural areas and support the diversification of the rural economy. Axis 1 and 2 specifically support the agricultural aspects of the rural economy, and, accordingly, Axes 3 and 4 are prohibited from supporting activity that involves the production/growth of agricultural products.
The harvesting of such products could also be considered agricultural activity. In this context the operating rules for Axes 3 and 4 specifically state that support can only be considered for post-harvest activity when it relates to agricultural products.
The project referred to in the question involves the processing of miscanthus, a species of grass used as a renewable energy source. The production of such grass can be considered for support under a scheme already available in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and it could therefore be considered an agricultural product. Clarification is being sought from the European Commission to determine the appropriate distinction between production and processing, thereby potentially facilitating support under the LEADER elements of the RDP. Pending this clarification, a final approval of the project in question will not be possible. However, my Department will be in contact with Carlow County Development Partnership as soon as possible in regard to this project.