AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has announced her plans to maximise the potential of the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013 for the remainder of the programme.
The Minister said: “I want to see a Rural Development Programme that delivers the greatest benefit for everyone living or working in our rural areas. I want to avoid a situation where funds have to be returned to Europe unspent.
“To achieve this objective I intend to maintain the budget of our Axis 3 schemes at £100million and make a further £5million available for the provision of rural broadband. I also intend to make provision of around £5million available for a further round of capital grant funding, subject to us being able to secure the necessary scheme approvals.
“In addition, I propose to pay for the Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowance scheme in 2014 from the current programme budget. I am well aware of the importance of this scheme in the North. My decision will help to provide some stability for the many farmers who depend on these payments as we move towards a revised Areas of Natural Constraint scheme under the next Programme. It will also encourage continuing good management of the environment by retention of established stocking patterns.
“Taken together, I am confident that these plans provide the opportunity to deliver maximum benefit to our rural areas. On the basis of these proposals I look forward to working with the Programme Monitoring Committee, EU Commission and my Executive colleagues to ensure that the potential of the Rural Development Programme is maximised for the industry, the environment and our rural areas.”