Potential for NI to have lowest UK CAP Pillar transfer but clarity still needed on overall RDP spend priorities

Friday, 20 December, 2013

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has said that whether Northern Ireland ends up with a 7% transfer of funds between CAP pillars or no transfer at all, Northern Ireland’s farmers will still be better off than their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales. However, clarity is also still needed as to how the next Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) budget is to be allocated.

UFU President Harry Sinclair said; “The UFU’s historic position was for no transfer of funds between Pillar 1 and Pillar 2. However, at our recent Executive meeting it was agreed that some funds may need to be transferred in order to support specific targeted schemes, such as an Area of Natural Constraint scheme and a scheme to support Northern Ireland’s vulnerable suckler cow industry. The UFU Executive felt that other funding options for these schemes, such as additional funds being made available from the NI Executive via commitments to NI Agri-Food Strategy Board recommendations or the next Rural Development Programme, should however be maximized. The inclusion of a ‘greening’ requirement within direct support is also likely to greatly reduce the need for a separate sizeable agri-environment scheme in the Rural Development Programme and therefore we would expect that the level of direct support money transferred from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 would be less than 9%, which up to this year had been transferred via voluntary modulation. We also see the provision of match-funding by the Government for any transfer as absolutely essential.

“In terms of the overall NI Rural Development Budget, clarity is still needed as to how funding is to be allocated between the six priorities. DARD’s consultation on our future NIRDP closed in October, and the Union was clear in our response that Pillar 2 should focus on providing meaningful support to grow the agri-food industry, as per the message of the NI Agri-Food Strategy Board, and that the allocation of funds to the wider rural priority (priority six) should be kept at an absolute minimum. The Union has raised concerns in the past that Rural Development funding was being diverted away from its intended purpose and instead used to substitute funding that should have come from elsewhere. It was our clear understanding that the NI Executive’s Rural White Paper was created to ensure that existing funding was used to provide services in rural areas. Rather than allowing NIRDP funds to be diverted away from rural businesses and farmers in order to fund strategic projects, the Minister has a responsibility to ensure that NI Executive Departments and local councils are in fact fulfilling their obligations under the Rural White Paper.

“It appears however, that this has now become a legal matter, which will ultimately be decided by the courts and politicians and we await the outcome of this.”