rural development
Luís Capoulas Santos, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development Image: © agriculture-forestry-and-rural-development

The background and current work of Luís Capoulas Santos, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development is placed under the spotlight by Open Access Government

Luís Capoulas Santos, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development in Portugal has been in office since November 2015. Before we look at his current role, it’s worth providing his background prior to attaining that position. He was born in Montemor-o-Novo, in 1951 and many years later, he graduated in Sociology from the Universidade de Évora.

He also worked in the Ministry of Agriculture for many years, from 1977 to 1991. After that, he was a member of the Assembly of Republic by Évora district between 1991 and 1995, then again from 2002 to 2004, plus he was re-elected in 2015.

Between 1995 to 1998, he served as Secretary of State of Agriculture and Rural Development and from 1998 to 2002, he was Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries. In addition, he was a member of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2014 and spokesman for the Agriculture Affairs of Socialist and European Democrats Group.

Other impressive positions he has held include his time as vice-president of Euro-Latin-America Parliamentary Assembly and as rapporteur of European Parliament for the reforms of Common Agricultural Policy between 2008 and 2013.

Supporting farmers in Portugal

In late March this year, The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development in Portugal paid a total amount of €37.3 million to Portuguese farmers through Institute for Financing Agriculture and Fisheries (IFAP). This payment includes €13.5 million that constituted the final payment to the farmers affected by the deadly fires that swept Portugal (and Northern Spain) during October 2017, after the control actions were carried out.

A few days after this, Minister Santos says that on the recent full payment of support to 23746 farmers affected by the fires: “Some 30 million are in payment against the presentation of their supporting documents”, he adds, noting that 25 are from community funds (Rural Development Program 2020) and €5.5 million to support the recovery of vines.

In other recent news, Minister Santos announced that the government will constitute the Public Enterprise for Forest Development and Management. He said that the key objective would be “to demonstrate how it is possible to profitably manage the forest, particularly in the minifundium areas”.

The company “aims to demonstrate how the forest can be professionally managed, how it can yield and how to prevent fires”, the Minister says, adding that the company will also seek to identify the rustic buildings. The Minister also points out that the contracts involving municipalities and other organisations in the forestry sector allowed for the creation of 26 reception and storage areas for burnt wood were signed during March.

The Minister for Home Affairs was also present at the debate on the report of the independent technical commission on the fires of October 2017 and announced the reinforcement of the means of fighting the fires.

Rural development in Portugal

Through the above examples, we can see that Luís Capoulas Santos, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development strongly supports those working in the rural sector in the country. This is also evidenced by the government’s clear support for the tornado-hit farms in Esposende, Portugal. The ordinance signed by the Minister himself and recognises that the tornado that reached the coastal zone of the municipality of Esposende on 14th March this year was an “adverse climatic phenomenon”.

This measure is part of the Rural Development Program PDR 2020, providing support totalling €3 million and is intended for the holders of agricultural holdings located in the parishes of Belinho and Mar, where the damage of more than 30% has occurred. The support is for equipment and rural buildings, the replenishment of animals, multi-annual plantations to support agricultural activity in the country. The support is for 100% for losses up to €5,000; of 85% for losses between €5,000 and €50,000; and 50% for damages between €50,000 and €800,000. The minimum support limit is €100 and added to that, the thresholds are cumulative.

A point worth considering is the government’s National Irrigation Program, presented in March 2018. The National Irrigation Program is an initiative that will create more than 90,000 hectares of irrigated land by 2022, with a public investment of €534 million. The National Irrigation Program is financed through the Rural Development Program (PDR 2020), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB). The future of Portugal’s rural sector looks bright, despite the fires of October last year.

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