RSPB Northern Ireland has welcomed Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s long-awaited announcement of funds for the Rural Development Programme (RDP). The 2014-2020 RDP could now be worth £623m, with funding supporting a range of priorities which together will lead to the enhancement of our important rural areas.
The RSPB is pleased to see that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has committed £186.5m of their own funds to match the EU contribution. The Minister has also asked for an additional £250m from the Executive to fund the ‘Going for Growth Agri-food Strategy’. This is a potential £123m increase in funding from the last programme.
One of the major priorities going forward is the rural environment. This RDP will see a continuation of important agri-environment schemes which support farmers for looking after our precious countryside. These schemes have been in operation since the late 1980s and have helped halt and reverse the decline of some of our most iconic species and habitats. Of the proposed £623m the Minister has stated that £256m will be channelled towards protecting the rural environment, which is good news for nature.
The RSPB is calling for more information on how the rural environment funding will be broken down. If the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme continues at previous levels, it will account for around £100m of funding. If this is the case, the RSPB wants as much as possible of the remaining £156 to be ring-fenced for agri-environment.
The RSPB therefore urges the NI Executive to match fund the RDP and maximise the amount the funding for agri-environment to ensure our rural environment benefits both now and in the future.
A major review of systemic pesticides – the best known of which are neonicotinoids - led by a range of leading scientists has confirmed these chemicals are already causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial invertebrate species. Additionally the authors have recognised the potential threat to other species, such as birds.
Image: Bee on flower at RSPB Hope Farm by Grahame Madge (rspb-images.com)
Keep an eye out for more on this story in the next couple of weeks, but for now you can read the press release here.
It's been a busy few weeks on the farming advice front, what with Open Farm Sunday, show season getting in to full swing and the recent announcements on greening from Defra. If you haven't had chance to read Martin Harper's blog on our response to the announcement, you can do that here...
It was good to catch up with some friendly farming faces at Cereals on 11/12 June, and to meet lots of new ones. The weather was the best I've ever experienced for the event and made a refreshing change to the horrendous downpours we've had over the last couple of years!
Image: Sheila Abrams
We had some really interesting conversations with farmers, land managers and other advisors over the two days of the show. It's a great opportunity to discuss new ideas, hear the experiences of farmers who are doing great conservation work and share knowledge and expertise. As well as offering advice, we always learn a lot too!
If you were at the show and unable to pop in and see us, feel free to get in touch if there is anything we can help with. You can also sign up to our farming enewsletter for quarterly updates on all things agriculture here - just click on the link to the free farming newsletter.
I'd also be interested to know what you find most appealing at shows - what draws you to a stand other than a desire to speak to someone about something specific? We'll be starting to plan our stand for next June fairly soon so it would be great to hear any suggestions you have!