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2 April, 2009

Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA today announced that the first round of the Farm Modernisation Programme (FMP) will go ahead as planned.

Following weeks of intense discussions with the European Commission, the Minister confirmed that the first round of funding on the programme can now proceed.

She said: “This is a crucial investment in our farming industry in the current economic climate. Demand far outstripped supply as widely witnessed when the scheme opened for applications in February, with over 9,000 applications received. It is a credit to our industry that during these difficult times it is still prepared to invest money to modernise and look to the future.”

Focusing on the detail of recent discussions with the European Commission, the Minister said: “We have been working hard over the past weeks to explain our approach to the European Commission, to ensure that they fully understand the selection process for the programme and the importance of our proceeding with the first round of funding.

“The European Commission has confirmed that it is not their role to approve the selection process for the programme and that it is therefore up to us to take a decision on how we proceed. The Commission has also said it will continue to make payments to our Programme.”

Addressing the issue of selection and future tranches of the FMP, the Minister said: “Before we launched this scheme we consulted farmers on their preferred approach to its delivery. In response we adopted a unique and practical application method. This allowed the selection of the modernisation projects to be built into the process to keep bureaucracy to a minimum.

“It has always been our intention to have this round of funding reviewed and we will of course be taking account of the many views expressed about the scheme since its launch, including the Commission's. The scheme received much praise for its simple application process and I remain committed to keeping future rounds of this programme as free of red tape as I possibly can."

The Minister also confirmed that the Department will now move to finalise assessment of the applications and to issue letters of offers to successful applicants in the coming weeks.

The Minister concluded by thanking all those involved for their support and patience, saying: “It is now time to move on and to make this important investment in our industry. I am grateful to those who have kept faith in the programme and in our ability to deliver the first tranche. Recent events in relation to the FMP launch have again shown that when we share a common purpose and work together we can achieve much more.”

The Farm Modernisation Programme forms part of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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