2014-2020 Rural Development Programme
The new rural development programme for Northern Ireland will run from 2014 – 2020. The size and shape of the programme is not yet known and will depend on the outcome of discussion on the EU Budget for 2014 – 2020 and the final European Union regulations.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has responsibility for preparing the new RDP, and will work with key stakeholders to create a programme that meets the needs of people who live and work in rural areas of Northern Ireland.
The draft EU regulations for rural development were published by the European Commission on 12 October 2011 as part of the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform proposals. These proposals inform how DARD have designed the RDP for Northern Ireland for the 2014 - 2020 period.
A key document in driving all EU policy is the Europe 2020 strategy which has three main aims for reviving the European economy in response to the current economic downturn. The EU aims to see growth that is competitive, sustainable and inclusive.
These aims have been translated into three objectives that are relevant to rural development. It sees;
- smart growth as being achieved through the competitiveness of our agriculture and food industries;
- sustainable growth through the sustainable management of our natural resources;
- inclusive growth through balanced territorial development of rural areas.
Six European Union proposals for rural development
Beneath the three objectives, the proposals specify six EU priorities for rural development:
- knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture, forestry and rural areas, which is described as a cross-cutting or horizontal priority;
- farm competitiveness and risk management;
- food chain organisation;
- restoring and enhancing ecosystems;
- promoting resource efficiency;
- social inclusion, poverty reduction and rural economic development.
The main differences from the 2007 – 2013 rural development regulation are;
- the removal of the axis structure to improve the flexibility of the programme;
- a consolidation of existing measures into fewer broader measures;
- and an increased focus on knowledge transfer and innovation, co-operation, climate change mitigation and the environment.
DARD Draft Proposals for rural development
The challenge for DARD and, indeed all member states, is to develop a rural development programme based on these draft proposals. The EU draft proposals are subject to change and the budget for the new rural development programme has yet to be confirmed by the European Commission.
In response to these challenges DARD established an internal CAP Reform Programme board in January 2012 to take forward the development of a 2014 – 2020 draft rural development programme for Northern Ireland. The senior responsible officer (SRO) of the board is the Deputy Secretary of DARD’s Central Policy Group.
Beneath the Programme Board sits six sub-groups - five of these six sub-groups reflect the EU priorities for rural development and the sixth considers the synergies with Pillar 1 (direct payments). The sub-groups consist of both policy and delivery experience however as we move through the development of the programme the emphasis of the groups will gradually shift from policy to delivery.
The sub-groups have been considering the rationale for intervention for each of the 6 priorities and have proposed a number of areas of potential support. These proposals are outlined in the Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020 Consultation document.
The RDP 2014 – 2020 Programme Development Stakeholder Consultation Group
The EU requires that the new rural development programme is developed in conjunction with our partners and stakeholders. A Programme Development Stakeholder Consultation Group was established in November 2012. This group acts as an advisory body.
The Group includes a wide range of stakeholders, including the farming unions, environmental NGOs, local government, local action groups, universities, business groups and representatives from the rural social economy.
The Group received a copy of the ‘DARD Draft Proposals for the Six European Union Priorities for Rural Development’ at its first meeting in November 2012. Comments received on this document played a significant role in helping to create the draft rural development programme for Northern Ireland for the 2014 - 2020 period.
The Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020 public consultation document launched on 01 July 2013. The consultation will run for 16 weeks and all comments should be with DARD no later than 5pm on Monday 21 October 2013.
The rural development programme is of major importance to the Northern Ireland economy. Many decisions still need to be made, such as those on the delivery mechanisms, grant ceilings and rates, and the balance of funding between priorities.
If insufficient funding is available to deliver all the proposed activities, difficult decisions will be required about which activity should have the highest priority.