Conservation charity RSPB Northern Ireland has welcomed the announcement that the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (RDP) has been approved by the European Commission.
This will inject £623m into rural communities, including £249m allocated to the delivery of environmental outcomes.
“The RSPB works with and advises hundreds of farmers throughout NI who have done excellent work for nature throughout the last RDP.”John Martin, RSPB NI senior conservation officer
John Martin, RSPB NI senior conservation officer, said the funding is vitally important “as it is one of the only funding mechanisms which helps improve the sustainability of the wider countryside”.
However, he stressed it is vitally important the money is targeted to where it is needed most.
He said: “Threatened species such as breeding waders (curlew, snipe, redshank and lapwing) have seen declines of up to 83 per cent since 1987. If we do not do something drastic now to protect these species and their habitats then we could be faced with the extinction of these once common farmland birds from our countryside.
“The RSPB works with and advises hundreds of farmers throughout NI who have done excellent work for nature throughout the last RDP. Many of these farmer agri-environment agreements have finished or will soon be coming to an end so it should be a priority of DARD and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the application process for the next agri-environment programme is as effective and simple as possible.”
Mr Martin added: “We will continue to work alongside DARD in providing advice and expertise on our experience of agri-environment to ensure the money invested in agri-environment schemes delivers for farmers, the public and nature.”