The Ulster Farmers’ union says talk needs to be turned into action on rural development.
It says the focus on planning and detail is leaving farmers and others frustrated that yet again red tape is preventing people taking advantage of a programme designed to bring economic benefits to the agriculture industry.
“Back in August, the agriculture minister, Michelle O’Neill, announced that the European Commission had formally approved the 2014 - 2020 Rural Development Programme (RDP).
“Seven months on, farmers are frustrated by the time it is taking to roll the Farm Business Investment Scheme out on the ground.
“To date the only thing meaningful that has come from the scheme has been the farm business development groups,” said UFU president Ian Marshall.
The UFU says that in the ‘Going for Growth’ report and elsewhere it was stressed that the Farm Business Investment Scheme needed to be rolled out to farmers as quickly as possible. It had been proposed that this would have two tiers - £5,000 to £30,000 and an upper tier to £250,000 grant. But the UFU says that given the time it is taking to get tier one in place DARD should recognise this delay and introduce both together as soon as possible.
“We believe DARD isn’t focussed on practical ways to give farmers an opportunity to access rural development programme funds. In addition engagement on key agri-environment measures has been just about non-existent,” said Mr Marshall.
“Currently the evidence shows that already the process is over-complicated. Ultimately this is infuriating farmers and delaying investment even further.”