FARM Minister Michelle O’Neill has met with the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee to update members on a range of issues and discuss ongoing co-operation on matters of common significance. Key issues discussed included the new Rural Development Programme 2014-20 including the issue of budget for the programme; other CAP Pillar 1 issues and Remote Sensing. Minister O’Neill provided the ARD Committee with an update on progress regarding work in shaping the new Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, and said: “The responses to the consultation were broadly supportive of the plans for the future programme and did not identify any new gaps. Many of the comments received have helped DARD to make further improvements to the proposed schemes. My Department’s response to the consultation will be made available on the DARD website shortly.” On the subject of financing the new Programme, Minister O’Neill said: “We now know the amount of funding that is available to us from Europe. We also know that a zero transfer rate from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 has been declared to the EU Commission. This has caused a shortfall in the funding that will be available to the next Programme. Whilst that is not what I would have wished, it has been done now and the Executive will have to face up to the reality of the situation and ensure that our farmers and rural dwellers are not disadvantaged as a result.” Moving on to CAP Pillar 1 issues, the Minister said: “At EU level, the Basic Act was published at the end of December 2013 and work on the detailed Delegated and Implementing Acts is progressing and I expect these to be finalised by June/July 2014. “We have just completed our major consultation on Pillar I. That consultation closed on 17 Januaryand there was a large response (more than 800). I have just received the full summary of these responses and I need to take time to consider this and will brief the Committee.” Turning her attention to Single Farm Payments, Minister O’Neill highlighted how the use of control with remote sensing has contributed to the successes that DARD has achieved with regard to inspection and payment targets for 2013. She said: “I recognise that there have been some concerns about how farmers were notified about their inspections, and the impact that this had on the timing of their Single Farm Payment.
“However, for 2013 claims, control with remote sensing has contributed both to the early completion of inspection payments and to speeding up payments to farmers overall. It has also served as an effective means of control which meets the regulatory requirements of the Commission and that is in no small measure down to the time that went into ensuring that it was functioning effectively before deployment.”]]>