Omagh Forum works with DAERA to deliver the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. Following an assessment of the current situation within NI, an assessment of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and the identification of the development needs the following key aims and objectives were identified as a priority for support in the NIRDP
To improve the competitiveness of the agri-food industry through;
o Improving the skills and knowledge and stimulating innovation, needed for business
continuity and growth.
o Improving resource efficiency by reducing operating costs.
o Investing in capital equipment and buildings to ensure the long-term viability of the industry.
o Improving the health and welfare of animals through increased knowledge and skills. To improve the natural environment;
o Ensuring the growth of the agri-food industry is sustainable through the reduction of GHGs and ammonia emissions.
o Supporting those that own and actively manage the land and woodlands to develop practices which improve biodiversity.
o Supporting farming practices which improve water and soil quality.
o The planting of new woodlands and the management of existing forests to mitigate the
effects of climate change.
To develop and improve rural areas through;
o Promoting economic growth through the provision of support for rural businesses and the rural tourism sector.
o Reducing poverty and social isolation by targeting support to tackle inequalities, deprivation, and access to key services including ICT.
Synergies are achieved through the selection of measures and sub-measures and also through the application of eligibility conditions and selection criteria. This ensures that the strategies work in a complementary manner achieving multiple benefits and added-value. Knowledge transfer and innovation are incorporated into each individual strategy.
Knowledge Transfer and Information Actions – Focus Areas 1A, 1B, 1C and 2A
Support will be prioritised to increase the industry’s awareness and engagement with research and development and access to and the uptake of new technologies. An important element will be the direct engagement of farmers with researchers to identify and solve problems specific to the industry. The vocational training selected will ensure that farmers and farm family members can not only benefit from the transfer of new innovative technologies but also gain new skills and adapt to the changing needs of the industry. The training provided will be tailored to the industry’s needs and support the overall objectives of the RDP. We will provide workshops, training courses, coaching, demonstration activities, farm and forest exchange schemes and visits.
Advisory Services – Focus Areas 1A, 4A, 4B, 4C and 5E
The Environmental Advisory Support scheme will provide support for environmental experts to provide specific conservation advice to farmers and land managers on the management of environmentally designated sites, priority habitats and priority species, river catchments and water quality. The provision of the advice which will be tailored to specific needs, will support an integrated approach to environment and agriculture related issues and will be in line with the Natura 2000 Prioritised Action Framework.
Advice for Forest holders will be on an individual and group basis and will be tailored to address a particular set of needs and will include improving resilience (including climate change mitigation and adaption), competitiveness, economic and environmental performance, supporting farm modernisation and specific advice for land owners establishing new woodland.
Advice will cover as minimum the relevant obligations under Directive 92/43/EEC (conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora), Directive 2099/147EC (conservation of wild birds) and the Water Framework and Pesticides Directive.
Investments in Physical Assets – Focus Areas 2A, 3A and 4A, 4B and 4C
There will be significant investment in the agri-food industry in line with the strategic vision of the Agri-food Strategy Board (AFSB) for growing a sustainable, profitable and integrated agri-food supply chain focussed on delivering the needs of the market. The Business Investment Scheme will be the main investment scheme within the RDP and will target farm restructuring, the need for which has been identified in the Needs assessment and SWOT analysis. Investments which improve on-farm resource and production efficiency, investments which improve resilience to adverse weather events and mitigate climate change and investments which improve Animal and Plant Health and Health and Safety on farms will be the main focus. Additionally a processing investment scheme will be aimed at improving the economic performance and competitiveness of the agri-food sector through capital investment. Better integration between producers, processors and retailers will ensure that the raw product meets the market and consumer requirements for healthier and more environmentally sustainable food.
Improving the economic performance of all farms through modernisation was an important element of the support available in the 2007-2013 RDP. The RDP strategy for farm investment will ensure that the investment is targeted at the correct level for the business and justified through farm business plans.
The limitations of the EU definition of a young farmer will mean that a young farmer scheme would only be open to a small number of potential applicants. The outcome of a previous New Entrants Scheme showed that a limited number of new farm businesses were created and 95% of applicants to the scheme were taking over existing businesses. The evidence suggests that financial provision to encourage the entry of young farmers into the industry is likely to be expensive and ineffectual. The RDP strategy is therefore to support young farmers through support for up-skilling, business planning and capital investment.
Use of Financial Instruments
It is not intended to introduce Financial Instruments at the beginning of the programme period, but the option will be kept under review and it may be appropriate to introduce Financial Instruments at a later stage through the modification process.
Basic Services and Village Renewal in Rural Areas – Focus Area 4A, 4B, 4C and 6B
Northern Ireland is a small business economy and agriculture is the dominant industry, followed by construction and retail. Rural areas are also particularly dependent on the tourism industry. In terms of agricultural diversification the three most popular diversified activities are tourism, sales of farm products, and equine sports. We will provide support for investment in the natural and built heritage in order to encourage rural tourism whilst preserving the built and natural assets of the rural community.
Support also will be provided for the development of Conservation Management Plans for up to 20 Natura 2000 sites helping to protect and enhance Natura 2000 land within Northern Ireland in line with the NI Prioritised Action Framework. The Plans will also complement Northern Ireland’s agri-environment scheme, by providing detailed guidance on appropriate agri-environment management of the Natura 2000 sites that the Plans are produced for.
Investment in Forest Area Development and Viability of Forests – Focus Area 4A, 4B, 4C and 5E
We will support woodland creation, improved management of woodland and the realisation of the economic potential of woodland, including support for woodland based processing and marketing. The main benefits from the forestry creation will be carbon sequestration. Secondary benefits from the scheme will include the processing and marketing of forestry products including material for renewable energy systems, improved biodiversity and water quality and the public amenity value.
Agri-environment-climate – Focus Area 4A, 4B, 4C
NI has a diverse landscape with strategically important priority habitats and species and N2K sites and we have invested significantly in agri-environment schemes since 1992. However despite this investment the region’s biodiversity and ecosystems remain under threat and there is a danger that environmental management is considered a separate rather than an integral part of agricultural production systems.
Lessons learnt from previous programmes are that agri-environment measures must be straightforward for farmers to understand and implement, increased training is needed to help farmers understand the commitments of the scheme and implement the measures effectively, schemes must not be complex so that they are robust for DAERA to administer and control and better targeting of measures will help to achieve better environmental outcomes.
The Environmental Farming Scheme(EFS) – will provide support to farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial farming practices building upon the approach from the Water Framework Directive, and encompassing other aspects covered by Directives such as those on Habitats, Birds and Ambient Air. The Wider Level EFS will support the process of greater environmental improvements in the wider countryside. There will also be a Higher Level EFS to support site specific interventions which will focus specifically on the strategically important N2K sites and priority habitats and. TheEFS aims to restore, preserve and enhance biodiversity; improve the quality of water, air and soil; create small woodlands; and help to mitigate climate change. Environmental criteria are applied in the selection process for both the Wider and Higher levels of EFS. The selection process will therefore ensure that measures with the highest environmental impact and best value for money are prioritised.