O'Neill Outlines Challenges and Opportunities at Balmoral Show
18 May 2012
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has outlined the challenges and opportunities facing her Department over the coming years.
The Minister was speaking at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) traditional breakfast at the Balmoral Show which was attended by more than 250 industry stakeholders.
Minister O’Neill said: “Over the next four years, we will experience a time of tremendous change. While I cannot say precisely when CAP Reform will come to a conclusion, I believe that by 2016 we will have had to absorb the impact of CAP Reform, and in particular we will have had to develop new Single Farm Payment processes. We will also have had to develop a new suite of rural development programme, measures and schemes.”
She added that over those years her Department will develop new schemes in line with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. It is also expected that her Department have made an application for officially Brucellosis free status.
Minister O’Neill encouraged greater Government/industry partnership, and explained: “The agri food sector is our most resilient and successful indigenous industry. Given the right conditions, I firmly believe there is even more potential to grow this important sector of the local economy. I want to see a vibrant, sustainable agri-food industry and rural economy and I am convinced that by forging strong working relationships we can make even more progress.”
The Minister re-affirmed the commitment in the Programme for Government to advance the relocation of her Department’s headquarters to a rural location, and indicated she hoped to reach a decision soon. She added: “I have asked the Chief Executive of the Forest Service to identify suitable premises in Fermanagh and relocate the headquarters of his Agency to that County. I believe that doing so will have benefits both for the County and for the Forest Service.
“Our forests in Fermanagh are a tremendous asset, and cover in fact some 15% of the County. There are obvious advantages to having senior management located there. But other advantages for the County will include access to more employment, and specifically more public sector employment. Over time, I believe that many of the jobs will be taken by local residents, and it will afford an opportunity for people to work in the public sector at the highest level without having to relocate themselves and their families.
“For Forest Service, the move will allow the senior management closer on the ground experience of what is happening in timber processing and recreation in the forests in the West. It will help them to progress a culture of customer focus and will help them place a priority on their role as an important part of the rural economy.”