UUP Motion: Rural Development Policy
‘That this Assembly expresses dissatisfaction with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development for her failure to effectively consult with executive colleagues on her plans to transfer funds from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 within the Common Agricultural Policy; notes with concern the ensuing events which saw the issue brought before the High Court; accepts that whilst farmers will benefit through increased direct payments, they and many rural communities and organisations will now lose out through significantly reduced rural development funding; and calls on the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development to commit to seeking sufficient funding for the future Rural Development Programme to effectively and efficiently deliver a range of schemes including those to support our burgeoning agri-food sector, increase farm safety measures, incentivise farm modernisation and capital investment, promote agri-environment measures and support our rural economy and communities.’ [Ms J Dobson, Mr R Swann]
Proposed: Leave out from ‘for her failure’ to ‘plans’ and insert:
‘and the Minister of Finance and Personnel for their failure to effectively consult with each other or with their Executive colleagues over the recent attempt’ [Ms A Lo, Mrs J Cochrane]
Anna Lo MLA said: “I was very surprised when the Finance Minister took the Agriculture Minister to court over this issue, as he did not raise any concerns during a consultation process between Executive Ministers.
“This legal action could easily be viewed as a politically motivated action by the DUP in the run-up to the forthcoming elections. Regardless of their motivation, this should have been addressed within the Executive, not through external legal action. It is hugely worrying to me that two Executive Ministers could not resolve this issue within the confines of the Executive.
“The environment sector is very concerned that without adequate funding for the rural development programme, we are at risk of failing to meet our local, UK, European and international environmental obligations and are therefore at risk of huge infraction fines.
“For example, in terms of Green House Gas emissions targets, we have only achieved a 17% reduction on 1990 levels and are unlikely to achieve the target of a 35% reduction by 2015, set by the Executive’s Programme for Government.
“I would urge the Agriculture Minister to work closely with her Executive colleagues to seek adequate funding to meet the deficit for the rural development programme, created by the recent debacle between ministers. It is of course essential that our farmers receive financial assistance to sustain a viable farming industry in Northern Ireland but we must also bear in mind that a sustainable environment is vital for all of us now and in the future.