The new Rural Development Programme for Northern Ireland will run from 2014 – 2020. The Programme was formally approved by the European Commission on 25th August 2015

The documents listed below were submitted to the European Commission:

Agri-Environment

The Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) will offer participants a 5-year agreement to deliver a range of environmental measures and will have three levels:

  • a higher level, primarily for environmentally designated sites and other priority habitats
  • a wider level to deliver benefits across the countryside, outside of environmentally designated areas
  • a group level to support co-operative action by farmers in specific areas such as a river catchment

EFS is planned to open for applications in February 2017 subject to the necessary financial approvals. 

Business Development Groups

Knowledge transfer through Business Development Groups (BDG) is a new scheme which will be funded through the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme. The scheme will use a group approach to improve the technical efficiency of farm businesses and will also offer participants the opportunity to gain a level 3 qualification.

Forestry Grant Schemes

Almost all woodlands in Northern Ireland are planted with some form of grant assistance. The Forest Service encourages the creation of new woodlands and the management of existing woodlands by providing grant aid towards the cost of the work.

Farm Business Improvement Scheme

The proposed Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) will be an important part of the RDP and, subject to the necessary business case approvals, will include a portfolio of measures to support sustainable growth in the agriculture sector.

It is proposed that the FBIS includes a capital investment scheme that provides capital support. This scheme is called the Business Investment Scheme (BIS).

Agri-food Processing Investment Scheme

The Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-20 includes provision for an Agri-food Processing Investment Scheme (AfPIS). This replaces the EU Processing & Marketing Grant Scheme (PMG) previously operated by DARD. Subject to the necessary approvals, AfPIS will seek to improve the economic performance and competitiveness of the agri-food sector through financial assistance for capital investment in equipment and buildings.

LEADER

£70m of funding will be distributed in rural areas through the leader approach.  Funding is available for Rural Business Investment, Rural basic Services, Village Renewal, Broadband initiatives and co-operation.

Rural Tourism

The Scheme will invest in natural and built heritage projects that can act as a key driver for encouraging rural tourism and particularly out of state visitors whilst preserving the natural assets of the rural community.

The scheme will be open to Local Authorities and should align with the objectives of Tourism NI.

Background

The draft EU regulations for rural development were published by the European Commission on 12 October 2011 as part of the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform proposals.  These proposals inform how DARD have designed the RDP for Northern Ireland for the 2014 - 2020 period.
A key document in driving all EU policy is the Europe 2020 strategy which has three main aims for reviving the European economy in response to the current economic downturn. The EU aims to see growth that is competitive, sustainable and inclusive.

These aims have been translated into three objectives that are relevant to rural development. It sees:

  • smart growth as being achieved through the competitiveness of our agriculture and food industries
  • sustainable growth through the sustainable management of our natural resources
  • inclusive growth through balanced territorial development of rural areas

Six European Union proposals for rural development

Beneath the three objectives, the proposals specify six EU priorities for rural development:

  • knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture, forestry and rural areas, which is described as a cross-cutting or horizontal priority
  • farm competitiveness and risk management
  • food chain organisation
  • restoring and enhancing ecosystems
  • promoting resource efficiency
  • social inclusion, poverty reduction and rural economic development

The main differences from the 2007 – 2013 rural development regulation are:

  • the removal of the axis structure to improve the flexibility of the programme
  • a consolidation of existing measures into fewer broader measures
  • and an increased focus on knowledge transfer and innovation, co-operation, climate change mitigation and the environment

EU obligation to publish beneficiary information

The European Commission is introducing new legislation in 2014 that will change the way Member States publish details of the amounts paid to CAP beneficiaries (claimants). Indications (as at early December 2013) are that payments will be published for all beneficiaries in receipt of more than €1,250 per annum. 

Relevant details will be put on a searchable website to include the business name, locality (nearest town) of the beneficiary with details of the amounts and schemes for which grant was paid. Beneficiaries receiving less than €1,250 per annum will not have their name published.

To comply with these EC regulatory needs, from 30 April 2015 we intend to start publishing details of payments made between 16 October 2013 and 15 October 2014.
 

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