NI firmly in rural development funding slow lane

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Yesterday (Tuesday) saw the European Commission in Brussels fully ratify new rural development programmes (RDPs) for the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales plus 21 other EU regions.

Each plan covers the period 2014 – 2020. However, it could be the autumn before the plan submitted by DARD on behalf of Northern Ireland gets the green light.

A DARD spokesperson said: “The North of Ireland Rural Development Programme was formally submitted on 14 October 2014 and the European Commission observation letter was received on 31 March 2015.

“DARD officials are now engaged in a process of negotiation with the Commission to address the comments raised. We are working towards gaining formal Commission approval for the Programme as quickly as possible and by September 2015 at the latest.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has also confirmed that it will be a number of weeks before full ratification by Brussels’ of Northern Ireland RDP to be forthcoming.

A spokesperson said: “The Ulster Farmers’ Union is aware that the Republic of Ireland submitted its Rural Development Programme to the European Commission much earlier than Northern Ireland.

“While it was disappointing that Northern Ireland was one of the last regions in Europe to submit its programme the Union have been given assurances by Commissioner Hogan that the NIRDP should receive full approval this summer with a view of implementation taking place later this year or early 2015.”

Meanwhile in Dublin, Farm Minister Simon Coveney has welcomed the final stage in the approval of Ireland’s RDP by the EU Commission.

He said: “The formal adoption of our RDP marks the next step in the roll out of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy agreed under Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union. In recent weeks I have announced the implementation of a number of key schemes contained in our RDP, and the continued roll out of RDP schemes and supports will help to underpin economic growth and development throughout rural Ireland.”

Commenting on yesterday’s developments in Brussels, EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said that one of the great strengths of the Rural Development concept is its core priorities.

“But it is up to each Member State or region to design a programme which suits its challenges and opportunities. The programmes adopted this week offer funding for a range of dynamic projects, varying from modernisation projects for agriculture and encouraging generational renewal in Croatia and Romania, to rolling out broadband to sparsely populated areas in Emilia Romagna and support for organic farming in Sweden or enhancing environmentally friendly land management on 1 million hectares of farmland in Ireland.

“Boosting the knowledge base of our farm sector is an important aspect of the RDPs. I am pleased to see that almost all of today’s programmes will support innovation projects under the European Innovation Partnership.”