McAleer welcomes Rural Development Programme announcement
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed the announcement the new Rural Development Programme could open in May ahead of final sign off by the EU Commission by July.
Speaking after meeting EU commissioner Phil Hogan to discuss the issue, Mr McAleer said;
"Along with other members of the DARD committee, we met Commissioner Hogan on Friday to discuss a wide range of agriculture and rural development issues.
"During the course of our exchange, the Commissioner indicated that the final text of the new programme was settled. It will be followed by a three-week consultation period and it could be possible for the Commission to issue a covering letter to DARD.
"Such a letter would enable DARD to open certain programmes for application as early as May. In addition to this, the Commissioner outlined the possibility of applicants accessing European Investment Bank loans at a competitive rate.
"This is potentially a major boost for farmers which could provide match funding for programmes such as the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. It may also be an opportunity for some farmers who will miss out on the Young Farmers Scheme.
"While I welcome the Commissioner’s comments on these matters, there is a substantial amount of information which must be provided before a full analysis of the risks and benefits can be established.
"I therefore welcome the fact that the Minister and her officials are currently engaging with the EU Commission to help maximise the potential opportunities of the new Rural Development Programme for farmers and the wider rural community.”