RDP meeting with DARD
Last modified: 08 October 2012
Delivering a new RDP
RSPB Northern Ireland met this week with the Department of Agriculture (DARD) to discuss the future of Rural Development in Northern Ireland. The current Rural Development Programme (RDP) runs from 2007-2013, paying out over £250m for a variety of projects including farm modernisation and the Northern Ireland Countryside Management Scheme (NICMS).
With the end of the current RDP in sight, the time is right to start thinking about how agri-environment schemes might look over the next five years. This is a really important source of funding for rural society, which often pays back a lot more than was put in. A 2010 study, for example, shows that for every £1 spent on agri-environment schemes in England, £1.32 is generated locally and £32 nationally. As well as this economic benefit, agri-environment schemes and other aspects of RDP are often the only tool for enhancing the sustainability of the wider countryside. CMs for instance, allowed RSPB to work with farmers on a project to start recovering populations of the red-listed yellowhammer in County Down.
John Martin, Conservation Manager at RSPB, said “These schemes are so important to farmers in Northern Ireland and it’s vital that the next RDP can deliver for the economy and the environment. RSPB works hard to ensure that the needs of agri-business are heard at a political level, which is why we met with DARD this week. Later this month we will be hosting a breakfast at Stormont for farmers from right across Northern Ireland and MLAs.
“CMS is particularly important to us as it is a major driver for the delivery of other policy aims such as the Water Framework Directive and management of our highly protected areas that make this part of the world so unique. Despite this, and perhaps short-sightedly, funds were cut from NICMS and other RDP measures during the 2010 spending review.
“The informal meeting today was for RSPB to get an update on the plans for the future RDP that will run from 2014-2020. The regulations on Rural Development were released by the European Commission in early 2012. However, we are concerned that while government departments in other parts of the UK have already been consulting stakeholders, we DARD has yet to begin that process. They are expecting to consult stakeholders in early 2013, with a view to having a new scheme ready by January 2014. But we would urge DARD to start this process earlier in order to ensure that deadlines are met and that the new scheme will be ready in time.
2020 is the revised internationally-agreed date by when we should have stopped biodiversity decline, but RSPB is worried that if we don’t start to put plans in place now, our next RDP will not deliver everything it could, and we will have cheated society out of the public goods they deserve from this important funding”.