Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen today welcomed the Commission proposal to allow up to 70% advance for direct support payments to farmers.
Minister McIlveen was attending her first European Agriculture Council in Brussels where she had a series of meetings, including with the DEFRA Minister, George Eustice and with European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan.
Speaking after the Council meeting Minister McIlveen said: “The Northern Ireland agri-food sector is the backbone of the local economy. In my meetings with Commissioner Hogan and Minister Eustice, I highlighted the unique and extreme market conditions that continue to affect the sector here. I stressed the need for immediate support from Europe to support our hard-pressed farmers, particularly those in the dairy sector.”
A €500million market support package for agriculture, aimed at helping farmers across Europe, was tabled at the Council meeting today. The package announced by Commissioner Hogan includes advances of up to 70% for direct payments, the allocation of €350million conditional adjustment aid for measures to be implemented by individual Member States and €150million funding to support a voluntary reduction in milk deliveries at EU level. These are in addition to a range of measures introduced by the Commission in September 2015 and March 2016.
The Minister continued: “I welcome Commissioner Hogan’s announcement of a further package of measures aimed at addressing the financial difficulties within the agriculture sector. Following today’s announcement my Department will be issuing 70% advance payments from 16 October. I also welcome the announcement in relation to the dairy sector. However, I'm disappointed about the complex strings attached to the proposed conditional adjustment aid. This could simply delay getting support out to those farmers who need it most. These proposals are still very vague and I want to consider carefully with DEFRA and my Ministerial counterparts in Scotland and Wales the detail of these measures to determine how they might benefit our farmers. I want to ensure that Northern Ireland receives a significant allocation of the €30million UK allocation to reflect the particular difficulties facing NI farmers.”
Other topics discussed at the Council Meeting included progress on CAP simplification and the position of the farmer in the supply chain. Minister McIlveen commented: “I am supportive of the CAP simplification agenda. Simplification has to be meaningful for the farmer and I welcome the simplifications made to date. However, I would welcome progress on a number of aspects, in particular, making the penalty regime more proportionate. I also believe that all within the supply chain should be fairly rewarded for their efforts, including farmers. I will be engaging further with the new UK government on this issue and also look forward to seeing the report of the EC’s Agricultural Markets Taskforce.”
Closer to home, Minister McIlveen has already taken steps to provide support for Northern Ireland’s farmers, including a commitment to introduce advance payments to eligible Basic Payment Scheme applicants from October 2016. DAERA is also working to support growth in the agri-food industry and to develop the economy.
This support includes enhancing penetration of existing markets; helping open up new markets; business support proposals through the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme including the Farm Business Improvement Scheme; and support for skills, research and knowledge transfer.
Notes to editors:
- Northern Ireland received almost 20% of the UK envelope of €36.1million targeted aid allocated by Commissioner Hogan, following the extraordinary Agriculture Council meeting on 7 September 2015. This included a top-up of £1.1million in recognition of the extreme market conditions here. Payments were made to dairy farmers in November and December 2015.
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