Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill has indicated that the new Rural Development Programme for Northern Ireland will be a key funding vehicle
for the Going for Growth strategy, which was launched twelve months ago by the Agri-Food Strategy Board.
The Minister was speaking at the Department of Agriculture Breakfast, the now traditional start to Day 2 of Balmoral
Specifically, Going for Growth, will include the measures envisaged for the proposed Farm Business Improvement Scheme, which will be the key funding vehicle to drive on farm investment over the next decade.
Commenting on the prospects for agriculture and food Michelle O’Neill was at pains to communicate an upbeat message, citing the growing relationship now developing between Northern Ireland and China as a case in point.
“I have seen at first hand the potential represented by China and I firmly believe that our pig sector can do real business in that market over the coming years,” she commented.
The Farm Minister went on to confirm that veterinary delegations from the United States, China, Russia and Australia will be in Northern Ireland before the end of 2014.
“All of this is good further good news for our farming and food industries,” she stressed.
“We are now operating within a truly international marketplasce, where food is concerned. However, Northern Ireland is well placed to meet this challenge in ways that will benefit farmers across the board.”
On the issue of CAP reform the Minister explained that she wanted to arrive at a settlement that best suited every farmer in Northern Ireland.
“I also want to make sure that the finalised policies are as straightforward as possible to implement. I am fully aware of the strong
views held by the various farm stakeholder groups. But one facet of the debate that seems to have been overlooked is the fact that the European Commission is demanding the implementation of a CAP policy that is not over complicated.
“To take such an approach would leave us predisposed to disallowances and I, most certainly, do not want this happening when it comes to agreeing the detail of the new CAP support measures.”
In stressing these points Michelle O’Neill seemed to be ruling out a scenario which would see the creation of two CAP regions in Northern
Ireland. This is the key issue that has served to divide the various farm stakeholder groups in the CAP reform debate that has been raging for the past four months.