Belfast Telegraph

O’Neill appears before Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development 

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Minister Michelle O’Neill today appeared before the Dail Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Dublin. 

The Leinster House visit to the DAFM Joint Committee at the Chairman’s invitation provided the Minister with an opportunity to exchange views on issues of concern across Ireland, in particular, CAP Reform. 

Following the meeting, the Minister said: “I would like to offer congratulations on a very successful Irish Presidency of the EU which saw agreement reached on the EU Budget, CAP Reform and a number of other matters. The Commission’s original CAP Reform proposals gave rise to similar issues and concerns north and south.

"We are broadly content with the main elements of the CAP Reform agreement however we are disappointed in the reduction of the budget. An important achievement from our point of view is the amendment of the greening proposals. The initial greening proposals would have placed an extremely high bureaucratic burden on our farmers and reduced the amount of cereal production in mixed farming to the detriment of farmland birds. In the final deal, greening is greatly simplified and more adequately accommodates the needs of our farming sector which is largely based around grassland farming.

"I also welcome the greater flexibility around moving towards a flat rate payment per hectare with the provision of an option to move only part of the way by 2019. This reform of the CAP offers the scope to address a wide range of issues and I was delighted that we were able to secure amendments on and clarification that CAP policy decisions reserved to Member States can be taken at a regional level. We will now be commencing the process to implement that agreement and I am sure there is plenty of scope for further north/south liaison on policy and implementation issues.”

The Minister discussed specific issues including; tackling rural poverty and social isolation, animal health, milk pricing, food security and the recent fodder crisis. Highlighting the work undertaken by DARD to tackle rural poverty, she continued: “I am fortunate that as DARD Minister I have the opportunity to help those most disadvantaged living in our rural communities and am delighted that I have been able to secure some £16million from the Executive to help the most vulnerable rural dwellers facing poverty and social isolation. Through the ‘Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation” Framework and Action Plan I have brought forward a range of new measures and built on the previous work that my Department has done to target the causes of isolation and help those living in poverty. My Department’s ongoing work on tackling rural poverty and promoting social inclusion has been a crucial part of showing others both inside and outside of government what works and makes a difference in a rural context. 

"This funding is making a real difference to people’s lives and supports a wide range of projects and programmes that address access poverty (such as access to benefits, education and training programmes and public transport), financial poverty (addressing low incomes and additional costs associated with rural areas) and social exclusion and isolation (ensuring vulnerable groups can overcome barriers to goods and services and supporting community groups and support organisations). I want to ensure that our rural areas continue to be sustainable and that we support the most vulnerable who are often forgotten about but can make an enormous contribution to society. I remain fully committed to addressing poverty and social exclusion for the good of all who live in rural areas.”

Minister O’Neill also took the opportunity to update the Committee on the test and vaccinate or remove (TVR) wildlife intervention research study. The Minister said: “Badgers in the study area will be tested and the test negative badgers will be vaccinated and released. Only test positive badgers will be removed. The preparatory phase for the study is already well underway. Badger sett surveying work in two 100km² areas in Co. Down has been undertaken and ecological baseline monitoring will be conducted later this year. These initial phases must be undertaken before the main TVR intervention work starts next year.” 

Notes to editors:
1. The minister’s appearance at the committee can be viewed online at http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/watchlisten/live-flashplayer/committeeroom3/ or http://media.heanet.ie/oireachtas/asx.php?Channel=Committee3&Date=20130709&StartTime=05:00:00.000&Duration=02:00:00.000 

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