O'Neill outlines detail of Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020

24 July 2014

The Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 budget of £623m will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in our rural areas, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.


Following the Executive’s approval of CAP reform proposals on 26 June 2014 Minister O’Neill has now outlined how the 2014-2020 RDP budget of £623m will be allocated across three specific areas of; protecting the rural environment, developing rural economies and competiveness of agriculture.

Michelle O’Neill said: “The proposed package of funding for the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 will include approximately £186.5million of European funding, matched pound for pound from the DARD budget.

“Having received the Executive’s approval, my Department will bid for up to £250 million of additional funds to deliver the Farm Business Improvement Scheme as requested by the Agri-Food Strategy Board in its ‘Going for Growth’ report, which will give a total budget value of up to £623m.”

Detailing how the funding will be allocated across the 3 areas Michelle O’Neill said: “Having secured the largest RDP budget we have had in the north my aim has been to deliver a balanced Programme of measures that meets the diverse needs of our agricultural, environmental and rural sectors.

“To achieve those goals I have allocated £287m to support the competitiveness of our agri-food industry in the north, £256m to support schemes that protect our rural environment and £80m to develop our rural economies to enable them to thrive and prosper.”

Concluding Minister O’Neill thanked all those who submitted responses to the draft consultation last year and will now submit the draft proposals to Europe in the coming months.

She said: “I would like to thank all who contributed to the public consultation in 2013, your views have helped shape the new Programme for 2014-20.

“I am keen to get our Programme approved by Europe as soon as possible so that we begin to get money out on the ground and make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in our rural areas.”

Notes to Editors

The NI Rural Development Programme is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Competiveness of Agriculture - £287m

One of the key drivers of competitiveness in our agri-food sector will be the Farm Business Improvement Scheme, recommended as part of the industry’s ‘Going for Growth’ report.  This is a portfolio of knowledge transfer and targeted capital investment schemes which will assist the sustainable growth of farm and commercial horticulture businesses. 

Central to this is the Business Investment Scheme (BIS), aimed at assisting on-farm efficiency by supporting those who wish to invest to grow their businesses and improve farm competitiveness. The scheme, which has an indicative allocation of up to £220 million, is based on a two tiered approach to funding with eligibility criteria commensurate to the level of funding.  Other measures which will form part of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme include European Innovation Partnership Groups (£0.75m), Farm Family Key Skills (£3m), Innovation and Technology Demonstration Scheme (£2.5m), Farm Exchange Visits (£1m), Business Development Groups (£25m) and an Agri Food Producer Cooperation Scheme (£2m).

Also contributing to the competitiveness theme will be a Food Processing Investment Scheme with a budget of up to £30m and a Forestry Competitiveness Scheme (£0.5m).  A further £2m will be available to encourage co-operation between groups and individuals across the agri-food, environment and forestry sectors.

Protecting the rural environment - £256m

£173.5m has been allocated to agri-environment in the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.  This will provide for an Environmental Farming Scheme which will support farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial farming practices that aim to sustain and enhance biodiversity, improve the quality of our water, air and soil, create small woodlands and help to mitigate against climate change.

 Also under the heading of agri-environment will be a Land Management Programme which will aim to improve the structure of agricultural soils, effectively manage the carbon stored in soil and ensure that nutrients are utilised in a more sustainable and efficient manner.

£65m has been allocated to fund the Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowances Scheme claimed in 2014 and paid in 2015 (£25m) and the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme to be paid in 2016 and 2017 (£40m).  £17.5m will be available for a range of forestry measures, which will include Woodland Expansion, Forestry Plantation and Woodland Environment Grant Schemes.

Developing rural economies - £80m

£80m will be available for a range of measures aimed at encouraging the economic development of our rural areas.  A Rural Business Investment Scheme will provide support for investments in the creation and development of non agricultural activities and will have a budget of £27m.
There will be a Rural Basic Services Scheme (£15m) and a Rural Broadband Scheme (£2m).  Other schemes aimed at developing our rural economies include a Rural Tourism Scheme (£10m), a Village Renewal Scheme (£8m) and an All Island co-operation Scheme (£4m).  An amount of up to £14m has been set aside for the running costs of the Local Action Groups.

The proposed budgets will be subject to the necessary approvals, industry uptake and delivery considerations.