Minister vows to back rural communities

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill said that she is determined to deliver a high quality, effective and comprehensive Rural Development Programme.

The Minister was speaking as she confirmed that due to urgent deadlines Defra had now notified to the European Commission a rate on behalf of the Member State incorporating a zero rate of transfer for the North of Ireland.

She said: “I am disappointed as we all know the scale of what has to be done by the Rural Development Programme, and that insufficient funding is being made available under Pillar 2 direct from Brussels.

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“Elsewhere in this Member State, England has set a rate of 12%, Scotland has set a rate of 9.5% and Wales has set a rate of 15%.

“Here we in the Executive will have to come up to the mark and make available funds to bridge the deficit which will support the farming sector, enhance the environment and meet the needs of rural communities.”

She continued: “I have worked tirelessly to develop the farming and wider sector, driving growth in the sector, ensuring good environmental outcomes, and investing in rural infrastructure.

“This demonstrates to those who share my disappointment at the funding outcome, that I will continue to balance the need to finance the development of the wider rural economy, competitiveness in the farming industry and the environment.

“We need to grow the farming and wider rural communities together,” she concluded.