West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

CAP reform must benefit the entire rural community - Mc Aleer

Published: 18 December, 2013

I wish to respond to a recent article penned by West Tyrone MLA Joe Byrne where he outlined his party's view that the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) should be directed towards the farming community rather than community projects. 'As a member of the DARD committee, I feel it is important to state that DARD has a remit for the entire rural community - farmers and the non farming rural dweller. That remit is not alone decided by DARD but also by the European Union which includes measures such as Axis 3 of the current RDP and Priority 6 of the new draft programme to address poverty and quality of life issues affecting everyone in rural areas. 'In terms of putting the CAP into a financial context, under Pillar 1 approximately £250 million per year is paid directly to farmers in the form of Single Farm Payments. This funding is a life line for the farming community who have been in the throes of successive financial and climatic crises in recent years. The SFP is particularly essential as agriculture is the backbone of our rural economy. 'The Rural Development Programme (Pillar 2) 2007-2013 had a total budget of approx £500m. Out of this budget, £100m an average of £14.3m per year was used for the wider rural community such as providing basic services, broadband, rural transport and childcare in isolated country areas. Unfortunately, during this year's CAP talks, the Tories, supported by the DUP at Westminster, negotiated a 22% cut to the rural development budget. 'The other reality is that in the current programme none of the money modulated from Pillar 1 was used to fund community projects. It was allocated to the farming community through Pillar 2 schemes such as the Farm Modernisation Scheme, focus farms and LFACA. 'I also find it a bit contradictory for the SDLP to laud the greatness of projects like the Garvaghey GAA centre which was part funded by the Rural Development Programme, whilst at the same time criticizing DARD for funding so called 'social, sporting and cultural' projects in rural areas. 'DARD has led the way in supporting rural projects and in encouraging other departments to play their part. It is incredibly important that all stakeholders, farmers and non-farmers, work together for the greater good of our rural way of life. An effective and well tailored CAP reform package can help us to collectively achieve the goal of a vibrant and prosperous rural community'.