The EU Regulation relating to rural development programmes, which sets out the framework for schemes such as the Suckler Welfare Scheme, requires that commitments must be for a period of 5 to 7 years. While the Suckler Welfare Scheme is fully funded by the Exchequer, approval to proceed was required under the EU State Aids regime. The objectives of the Scheme are to improve animal welfare standards, breeding practices and the quality of the national beef herd. The State Aid application for the Scheme was prepared by my Department and approved by the EU Commission on the basis that a 5 year programme was a realistic and credible timescale for the realization of these objectives. I remain of the view that the Scheme objectives would be best realized over that period.
The Deputy may be aware that in the context of the Supplementary Budget, I announced that the rate of premium under the Scheme for 2009 would be €40 per animal.