David Ford said: “Today’s announcement by the Minister shows only a modest improvement on the plans previously announced by Direct Rule Ministers. By the end of the current 6 year term, farmers will be losing 9% of support payments, rather than 10%.
“The Minister admitted that only 75% of modulated funds are returned to farmers under alternative schemes, such as the Agri-Environment Scheme. That means that fully a quarter of single farm payments removed from farmers will go to some completely different purpose.
“In the Assembly, I asked the Minister for a promise that none of this funding would be used within her own department, for example by the Forest Service, as has happened in the past. I regret that she failed to give any such commitment.
“Agriculture is going through a time of great financial difficulty with farmers being forced to leave the land and the countryside being damaged
“There are clearly important issues of rural development that require increased government funding. However, the key use of modulated farm support must be to benefit the environment by paying farmers to make necessary improvements under Agri-Environment Schemes.”