Rural Development Programme provides £500 M for rural economy
Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, has announced European Commission approval of the 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme (RDP).
The new programme is worth over £500 million and is comprised of fourteen separate measures aimed at improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector, improving the environment and the countryside and contributing towards the quality of life in rural areas and diversification of the rural economy.
The Minister said "I am delighted to announce this significant investment in our rural areas. In particular I am very pleased that our programme is not just the first programme across these islands to be approved, but is in the top ten of all programmes to be approved so far by the European Commission."
The Minister went on to thank the European Commission for its work in making approval a priority, adding "I pressed Commissioner Fischer Boel and President Barroso on the need for early approval of the RDP when they visited here in May. Today's announcement represents recognition by Europe of how important rural communities are to the fabric of this region. It is also confirmation of how well President Barroso and Commissioner Fischer Boel listened to our needs during their visits earlier this year when the President announced his initiative to set up a European Commission Taskforce. This taskforce is helping us get the most out of our membership of the EU and is facilitating the early approval of the new round of EU Programmes 2007-13."
She added "My priority now is to see this funding made available to rural areas as soon as possible. One such example is a second 2007 Less Favoured Area (LFA) payment to farmers in disadvantaged areas, where I know funds are badly needed. I am pleased to confirm that a balance will be paid. It will be a priority for me to make sure we get this money out as soon as is practically possible and the Department will engage with the Assembly Committee on the necessary legislation immediately when recess ends in September."
The new programme will be delivered by DARD and a range of external delivery bodies.
Notes to Editors:
- Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 was approved by the EU's Rural Development Committee on 24 July 2007. This Committee is composed of representatives of the European Commission and all 27 Member States.
- The Department made 2007 Less Favoured Area (LFA) payments totalling £9.9 m in March this year as an interim measure until the Programme was approved and EU funding could contribute. The Department is required to consult the Assembly Committee on the enabling legislation to allow balance payments for 2007 and will do as rapidly as possible. The remaining balance on 2007 Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowances Scheme payments is approximately £11 million.
- The programme contains the following measures:
1.1 Vocational Training and Information Actions (Better Business)
1.2: Adding Value to Agricultural and Forestry Products and Improving Marketing Capability
1.3: Farm Modernisation
1.4: Supply Chain Development Programme
2.1: Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowances Scheme
2.2: Agri-environment programme
2.3: First afforestation (forest expansion)
2.4: Forest environments
3.1: Diversification into non-agricultural activities
3.2: Business creation and development
3.3: Encouragement of tourism activities
3.4: Basic services for the economy and rural population
3.5: Village renewal and development
3.6: Conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage