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McHugh - Opportunity for DARD sort out mess of rural development programme

4 February, 2004

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh Cllr Gerry McHugh has welcomed the mid term evaluation of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund which was published last week.

Cllr McHugh said:

"This evaluation will give DARD an opportunity now to correct the many mistakes which have resulted in farmers and the rural community becoming disillusioned with the rural development programme".

"The report covers all of the rural development programmes from Peace II and BSP along with the accompanying agricultural measures. The report shows that 70% of farms are considered mainly LFA and that the accompanying support for LFA areas has kept the reduction of farms in the LFA areas to the same proportion as that of lowland areas.

"The report states that a rejection rate of 71% in the BSP programme with 5 measures having no approvals and a rejection rate of 56% in the PEACE II programme with four of the nine measures having no approved applications.

"With this rejection rate and the number of measures having no approvals the report questions as to whether some of the money can be spent.

"There is no doubt that the money paid to farmers in the LFA and other areas through schemes such as the Country Side Management Scheme the Environmentally Sensitive Scheme and the various Compensatory Allowance's provide vital assistance, it is also clear that these schemes are easily accessed, I will be calling upon DARD again to make assistance available to farmers and the rural community to access the Rural Development Programme". ENDS

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