Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill today made a series of significant announcements.
They involved agreement on CAP reform, the new Rural Development Programme and the agri food strategy report ‘Going for Growth’.
The Minister expressed her satisfaction that the Executive has reached agreement on the remaining CAP implementation (Direct Payments and Rural Development) issues.
Michelle O'Neill said:
“I’m very pleased that the Executive has reached a resolution on this very important issue. There were diverse views on some of the remaining CAP implementation issues. Compromise was needed and we have succeeded in finding a fair and balanced solution which represents a good outcome for farmers’ right across the north.
"We were all well aware that if decisions on these issues are not notified to the EU Commission by 1 August 2014, then the default position would be imposed on us by Brussels. This was a situation I was determined to avoid, especially when I fought so hard to secure the right to make decisions locally.”
“The level of stakeholder engagement on the new CAP reforms has been unprecedented and very careful consideration was given to all the views expressed. In reaching an agreed outcome the Executive has concluded that there should be a single region model, no voluntary coupled support - though the latter will be kept under review - and an Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme in Pillar II for the first two years of the next CAP period, with a review thereafter.
"I hope to implement a one year transitional payment for farmers in the Disadvantaged Area in 2015/16 (State Aid rules permitting) as these areas will no longer be eligible for Pillar II support under the rules of the new Rural Development Regulation.
"However, I will not be changing the current LFA boundaries in the short term and the re-designation of these boundaries based on the new ANC criteria can be considered in tandem with the review of the ANC scheme.
“The Executive also agreed that the basic payment and the greening payment will move to a flat rate payment per hectare over a seven year transition period starting in 2015. In my view, this strikes the appropriate balance between allowing reasonable time for the industry to adjust and moving towards a support regime that is fair and defensible.”
On Rural Development funding the Minister said:
“The Executive also agreed to support my proposals for a Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 of up to £623million. This represents a significant increase in funding from the current Programme (2007- 2013) and will allow delivery of a broad range of measures to improve the competitiveness of our farm and agri-food businesses, to protect and enhance our environment and to improve the quality of life in our rural communities.
“The proposed package of funding for the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 will include approximately £186.5million of European funding, matched pound for pound from the DARD budget. Having received the Executive’s approval, my Department will bid for up to £250million of additional funds to give a total budget value of up to £623million.
“The new RDP will allocate up to £287million of funding to improve the competitiveness of our farm and agri-food businesses, £256million to protect the rural environment and £80million to assist in the development of rural economies and create jobs. A major element of the competitiveness strand (up to £250million) will be the proposed ‘Farm Business Improvement Scheme’.
“This funding will help us deliver on the aims and objectives in the Agri Food Strategy Board’s Going for Growth report, including the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. This proposed Scheme will be an important part of the next Rural Development Programme and will include a portfolio of measures to support sustainable growth in the agri-food industry, including the beef sector, as I look to ensure this vitally important industry is adequately supported going forward.”
”Minister O’Neill concluded:
“The package of support agreed by the Executive provides a solid platform from which to drive the industry forward and help fulfill its full potential. My officials will update the DARD website over the coming days and weeks so that farmers can see clearly what the full implementation package means for them. Overall, today’s announcements represent a good deal for farmers and the agri-food sector, a good deal for the environment and a good deal for the rural economy.”