Irwin welcomes RDP focus on farmer

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Friday, September 20th, 2013
Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Stormont Agriculture Committee member William Irwin has welcomed the inclusion of a farm business improvement element to the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme. Irwin used a recent opportunity in the DARD Committee to question Minister O’Neill directly on the RDP scheme and also raised the need for a land improvement element to help farmers get land affected by severe weather back in to full production. Speaking to Newry Times, Irwin said, “The Rural Development Scheme is funded through modulation money which in essence belongs to the industry, therefore the funding streams brought on line by DARD for the new round, must by their nature, target assistance directly to the farmer.” “I welcome the fact that a business improvement scheme will be a feature of the new round of funding to be taken forward by DARD and I took the opportunity to question the Minister on how this would materialise. “I encouraged the Minister to ensure that the red tape and bureaucracy associated with the RDP more recently is addressed and the process made much more straight forward for the farmer.” He said, “I also raised the issue of the need for a land improvement element to be introduced to the scheme given the very extreme weather we have experienced over recent years and the damage that has been done to agricultural land.” “Farmers have had little to no assistance in terms of capital grant schemes for many years and given the focus on the Agri-Food Strategy ‘Going for Growth’, there is a real need for farm improvements to allow farmers to realise the full potential of their farm businesses. Irwin added, “In Scotland and England there are capital grant schemes that are workable and effective and are farmer friendly and I urge the Minister to look at how Scotland and England deliver their schemes to farmers and ensure that her Department learns from mistakes made in the past where RDP assistance did not directly benefit the farmer.”
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