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O’Neill Outlines EU Budgets Available Under Common Agricultural Policy
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DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill today (Monday 13 January 2014) made a statement to the Assembly on the EU budgets available under Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2014-2020.

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The Minister referred to her Written Statement of 20 December 2013, regarding her decision to transfer 7% of the Direct Payments allocation to the Rural Development allocation. The Minister said: “I intended that this transfer rate of 7% for the years 2014 to 2019 would provide approximately an additional 137.5 million euros to the overall Rural Development Programme budget, to help support investment in our agri-food industry, protection of the environment and the economic and social development of our rural areas.”

Explaining that she had consulted widely before making her decision, the Minister said: “The question of whether there should be a transfer between the Pillars of the CAP was part of my Department’s consultation about proposals for the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. There was considerable interest in the consultation, with 175 responses received and over 400 people attending my Department’s public events. I also sought views from my Executive colleagues and their respective departments on the specific issue of the Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 transfer.”

The 7% decision was challenged in court resulting in a 0% rate of transfer being notified to the European Commission. Minister O’Neill noted that England, Scotland and Wales have opted to transfer a total of approximately 2.3 billion euros into their respective Rural Development Programmes and said: “It is extremely disappointing that the north of Ireland will be the only part of this Member State where this additional investment may not now be available. This risks depriving our farmers, our rural communities and the protection of the environment of much needed investment.”

The Minister confirmed her commitment to rural areas saying: “My main objective in putting together a package of funding for the next Rural Development Programme is to ensure that we have enough money to further improve the competitiveness of our farm and agri food businesses, protect and enhance our environment and countryside and improve the quality of life in our rural communities. It will be important to look at the funds available and all the priorities for funding. I will be considering all of this very carefully as we finalise the new Programme. I want to ensure a targeted and balanced RDP for the farming sector and all rural dwellers.”