Gildernew updates Agriculture Committee
Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has updated the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on her Department's progress on several issues ahead of her impending maternity plans.
She said there will be very good news for farmers in the New Year with the opening of an enhanced Farm Modernisation Scheme and the early payment of Less Favoured Areas subsidies.
The Minister announced that the Farm Modernisation Scheme is to go ahead, and will be delivered by an external delivery agent as part of a package of innovative measures to help the farm family.
The Minister said:
"The intention of farm modernisation is to help the farmer become more competitive, and I have asked my Department to urgently review the range of machinery and other products which will qualify for grant, to ensure they target all sectors within the Industry appropriately.
"I am also investigating if additional funding can be found from within the Rural Development Programme to further top up the funding within the Scheme. This is likely to take some time to bring about, but in the meantime £15million is available under the Scheme."
Early payment of over £20million of the Less Favoured Areas (LFACA) subsidy was also confirmed by the Minister. She announced that more than 13,000 farmers would begin receiving their LFACA payment in January, two months ahead of the usual timetable.
Outlining the problems caused to the farming community by the flooding in August, the Minister set out plans to recognise the losses that farmers have faced. The Minister confirmed that her officials are preparing a business case for DFP to secure hardship payments under the European Commission's de minimis rules.
The Minister also raised the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme (FNMS) deadline at the end of the year and re-iterated the finality of the 31 December deadline. She explained her efforts to lobby the Commission on the FNMS and the EU's rationale for sticking to the end of year deadline.
A number of other issues were discussed by the Minister at the Committee meeting, including the Rural White Paper and Rural Champion, the December Fisheries Council, the CAP Health check, animal disease, cutting bureaucracy in the Department and ongoing work by the independent Review into the Renewable energy Wind Turbine Scheme.
Concluding her statement, the Minister confirmed her maternity arrangements, noting that Ministers Conor Murphy, Gerry Kelly and Caitríona Ruane would all represent her at specific events relating to her Ministerial responsibilities.
- 2009 Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances ( LFACA) payments are worth £21.2million.
- 14,672 farmers have applied to the Scheme.Some 13,600 are expected to satisfy eligibility conditions and qualify for payment.
- Payment rates in 2009 will be £40 Severely Disadvantaged Area(SDA); £20 Disadvantaged Area (DA)/Common Land. Applicants who qualify for Cattle Bonus will receive an additional payment of £10 SDA and £5 DA/Common Land.