A £623 million Rural Development Programme (RDP) has been approved by the European Commission (EC) for the industry in Northern Ireland, creating fresh opportunities for improving farming and agri-food businesses across the country.
The programme, which is scheduled to run until 2020, includes a £257m allocation to “improve the competitiveness of farming and agri-food businesses with the bulk of that money being made available under a new all-species farm business improvement scheme.
“I’m confident that every single penny allocated as part of this programme will go towards creating rural jobs, developing our rural infrastructure and investing in the future sustainability of the farming industry,” said Northern Ireland agriculture minister, Michelle O’Neill, adding that the RDP was “important for the industry, particularly now as our farmers face difficult and challenging times”.
Urging farmers to use the programme to learn about and enhance their knowledge of business management, new technologies and innovative ways of working, she said the RDP could help producers to “think more clearly about their farm, their income and their future”.
Noting that the RDP award was the result of over three years of work by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and industry stakeholders, beginning in 2012, Ms O’Neill said she was looking forward to seeing “hundreds of projects” benefitting from the programme over the next few years.